Package of police reforms advances in New York legislature

NEW YORK (Reuters) – A sweeping package of police reform measures has started to move toward passage by the New York state legislature in the wake of the historic wave of protests sparked by the death of George Floyd in police custody.

FILE PHOTO: NYPD police officers walk along a street as demonstrators protest against the death in Minneapolis police custody of George Floyd, in New York City, New York, U.S., June 5, 2020. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz

The state Assembly and the Senate, both of which are controlled by Democrats, on Monday passed a ban on police officers using chokeholds to subdue suspects and a bill requiring law enforcement to disclose racial disparities in policing.

In the coming days, lawmakers will take up other bills, including the repeal of so-called section 50-a of the civil rights law that shields officers from disclosing their disciplinary record.

“The legislation that will be passed over the coming days will help stop bad actors and send a clear message that brutality, racism, and unjustified killings will not be tolerated,” New York Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said in a statement.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said he supported the reforms and would sign the bills into law.

Last week, police unions including New York City’s powerful Police Benevolent Association (PBA) pushed back against the state’s legislative agenda, which they said amounted to an “attack on law enforcement.”

George Floyd, a 46-year-old African American, died on May 25 after a white police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes. He will be buried in Houston on Tuesday.

Floyd’s death unleashed a surge of protests across U.S. cities against racism and the systematic mistreatment of black people.

Though mostly peaceful, there have been episodes of arson, looting and clashes with police, who have been accused of using heavy-handed tactics in response.

Nationwide calls for police reform in the wake of Floyd’s death prompted Minneapolis City Council members to pledge to dismantle the city’s police department, outlining broad plans to shift funding to community-based programs that reduce violence and limit the need for an armed law enforcement response.

In Washington, congressional Democrats on Monday introduced a sweeping bill intended to address longstanding complaints about racial injustice in U.S. policing.

Reporting by Maria Caspani, Editing by Chris Reese