On June 12, Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) signed an executive order requiring all of NY's 500 law enforcement agencies to develop their own plan for police reform. Each agency must submit their plan to the Director of the Division of the Budget by April 1, 2021. Agencies without satisfactory plans will not have access to specific state grants.
For this reason, a significant amount of NY's police reform will occur at the local level rather than at the state legislative level.
What to do here
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Last updated March 5, 2020
No knock warrants
New York State has not yet enacted a law eliminating the use of no-knock warrants. In 2015, legislators introduced S4354 which would better protects the public from possible individual or systemic abuse of so-called "no-knock" search warrants, while preserving the use of such warrants. The bill died in committee.
Pending Legislation: S.11, introducd in January 2021, would limit the use of no-knock warrants to cases in which officers were pursuing a suspect accused of crimes that involve "murder, an active-shooter, hostage-taking, kidnapping, terrorism, human trafficking or where a situation involves an individual who has barricaded himself in a specific area and has a violent history.”
New York State has not yet enacted a law ending its participation in programs that facilitate the transfer of military weapons from the federal government to police departments.
Pending Legislation: Lawmakers in both houses introduced companion legislation in January 2021 (A.2535/S.1134) to prohibit law enforcement agencies from "participating in the 1033 federal excess property program for the purposes of receiving lethal or offensive weapons."
Military style training
New York State has not yet enacted a law refocusing training away from self-defense responses and towards community centered training like that offered by Blue Courage. Instead, after a grand jury failed to indict officer Daniel Pantaleo for the murder of Eric Garner, New York City law enforcement officers used LRADs (Long Range Acoustic Devices) on protesters. LRADs emit a noise louder than the threshold for potential hearing loss and can cause headaches, earaches, and permanent hearing damage. They “were developed in response to the October 2000 bombing of the USS Cole,” and should not be used on peaceful protesters.
New York State has not yet enacted a law requiring the recording and cataloging of SWAT team use.
Civil asset forfeiture
Prosecutors can freeze only those assets that they anchor to the crimes charged. However the law does not require the freeze be enacted after conviction.
Legislation in 2010 expanded the quota penalty provisions to include a ticket, summons or arrest authorized by any general, special or local law made within a specified period of time, and quotas for stops of individuals suspected of criminal activity within a specified period of time. The law also stipulated that law enforcement supervisors could not threaten an employee through a reassignment, scheduling change, poor evaluation, constructive dismissal, denial of a promotion or the denial of overtime.
Pending Legislation: S.1253 designates discrimination against law enforcement officers for failure to meet certain ticket quotas as a class A misdemeanor.
Cost of misconduct
New York State has not yet enacted a law requiring police departments (not state general funds) to cover the cost of misconduct. In 2018, NYPD paid almost $230 million in settlement claims. S8676, introduced in July 2020, would have required that police officers maintain personal liability for misconduct complaints. This legislation died in committee.
In 2019, NYS increased the amount of marijuana you can possess without facing a criminal charge, and reduced fines for low-level marijuana possession. Another part of that law expunges, or clears, the records of those convicted of minor marijuana crimes. However, the state has not decriminalized other non-violent crimes like loitering or jaywalking.
Objective justification for stops
New York State has not yet enacted a law requiring officers to establish objective justification for making a stop (i.e. not simply for furtive movement, suspicious activity, or matching a generalized description). Stop and Frisk has nominally decreased, but hasn't been outlawed or banned in any meaningful way. Though the New York State Police are mandated to wear body-worn cameras that are to be used any time an officer conducts a patrol, this does not define any standards of justification.
Pending Legislation: A 2662, introduced in January 2021, prohibits racial profiling during routine or spontaneous investigatory activities.
Reporting stop details
Reform passed in June 2020 requires that state and local law enforcement officers, as well as peace officers, must report within six hours when they discharge their weapon where a person could have been struck and whether they were on or off duty. Another reform (passed in the same package) requires courts to compile and publish racial and other demographic data of all low-level offenses, including misdemeanors and violations. The bill also requires police departments to submit annual reports on arrest-related deaths to be submitted to the Department of Criminal Justice Services and to the governor and the Legislature.
Reckless civil rights violation
New York State has not yet enacted a law lowering the prosecution requirement from ‘willful’ to ‘reckless’ deprivation of another’s rights.
As part of the "Say Their Name" package of reforms passed in June 2020, New York State has created a special office of investigation within the state Attorney General's Office. Of note, some worry it would not be independent enough residing in the AG office, or that it could be duplicative with unknown costs.
New York State has not yet enacted a law ending qualified immunity.
Mental health response
New York State has not yet enacted a law creating and funding a mental health task force available to respond to crisis calls (in lieu of police). Locally, New York City announced its plan to launch a pilot in 2021 that would send teams of EMS and mental health professionals to crisis situations in lieu of sending police.
Education, Housing, Community Health Resources
It is important to note that policing does not address the roots of social disadvantage and barriers to (economic) opportunity that often lead to crime. Nor should police be burdened with that responsibility.
Without access to quality resources in healthcare, education, and housing, our cities, neighborhoods, and families will continue to suffer. We should instead reassess the budgets of the state government and reinvest in the services that matter most.
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