Cuomo signs major police reform legislation, mandates department changes

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed police reform legislation into law on Friday, more than two weeks after George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis sparked a nationwide movement. 

The governor signed into law a bundle of police reform bills passed by the legislature this week. Among them are a repeal of law 50-A, a statewide ban on chokeholds, automatic appointment of a special prosecutor to cases of police killing unarmed civilians, and a law making fake race-based 911 calls a crime. 

Cuomo also said he is signing an executive order Friday that will withhold funds from police departments that do not enact reform. The “NYS police reform & reinvention collaborative” requires departments to work with their communities to draft reform before April 1, or lose state funding. 

“I’m going to sign an executive order today that will require local governments and police departments … to develop a plan that reinvents and modernizes police strategies,” Cuomo said at his daily press briefing. “That plan then has to be enacted into local law — every city, every county — it has to be done by April 1. If it’s not done by April 1, and if it’s not passed, they’re not going to be eligible for state funding.”

“The way we really solve this is we say to every police agency in this state — I believe should happen in the nation: Sit down at the table with the local community, address these issues, get to the root of these issues, get a plan, pass that plan by your local government, and if you don’t, you’re not going to get any additional state funds, period,” he said. “We’re not going to fund police agencies in this state that do not look at what has been happening, come to terms with it, and reform themselves.”

“There is no trust between the community and the police,” Cuomo said. “If there’s no trust the relationship does not work.” The governor added that the only way to rebuild the relationship is to get everyone in one room to “say their piece.”

“The truth is this: Police reform is long overdue,” he said, adding, “this is not just about Mr. Floyd’s murder.”

Cuomo Holds Briefing In Manhattan
Governor Andrew Cuomo is joined by Reverend Al Sharpton, Dr. Hazel N. Dukes, Valerie Bell; the mother of Sean Bell, Gwen Carr; the mother of Eric Garner, and New York State Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins on June 12, 2020, in New York City. 


Reverend Al Sharpton joined Cuomo on Friday at the press conference, calling his ultimatum to police departments a “model” for all other governors. “This is a new level that all other 49 governors ought to look at,” he said. 

Cuomo also shared updates on the state’s coronavirus status as five regions of the state moved into their next phase of reopening. According to the governor, 42 people in New York died from the coronavirus on Thursday, 32 in hospitals and 10 in nursing homes.

Widespread testing in the state has shown that the infection rate is down overall. Cuomo added, however, that lower-income neighborhoods in New York City’s outer boroughs continue to have high infection rates, calling it “another symbol of the injustice in our society.”

The governor said states across the country are seeing spikes in coronavirus cases following nationwide reopenings, but that New York is one of the exceptions. Cases of COVID-19 are now increasing in 23 states, and 15 states are now seeing new highs, he said. 

“Where we are today is a pivotal point in this entire situation with the coronavirus,” Cuomo said. “You see states all across the nation where the infection rate is going up dramatically. You have states now that reopened that are scaling back their reopening. That’s how bad the spikes are.”

Cuomo urged states to reopen with “discipline” in order to avoid a surge in cases. “States that have reopened too quickly, or uncontrolled, are now starting to close down,” he said. 

“We are the exact opposite, since we’ve reopened the number has continued to go down,” he said, adding, “because we’ve been disciplined in our reopening, and that’s what we have to continue to do.”

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