New York Police Department former Commissioner Bernie Kerik declared on Thursday via Twitter that he will no longer recommend the NYPD to potential recruits in law enforcement due to the passage of sweeping police reform bills that “handcuff” officers.
The New York City Council has just passed a series of reforms that apply to the New York Police Department. The reforms include ending qualified immunity for officers, which leaves them wide open to civil lawsuits. The reform bills reportedly strip NYPD officers of their control over the department. New York is the first city in the nation to eliminate qualified immunity. Mayor de Blasio said it was “a very, very strong reform package.”
Kerik was police commissioner during the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York City. He is slamming the ruling: “No police officer should work in a jurisdiction where they do not have the support of those they work for. Beginning today, I will no longer recommend young people consider the NYPD as a career.”
New York police unions blasted the reform bills calling it an attack on cops while allowing criminals to run wild. “New Yorkers are getting shot, and police officers are on the streets day and night, trying to stop the bloodshed,” said Patrick Lynch, who is the president of the Police Benevolent Association. “Where are those City Council members?” asked Lynch. “Safe at home, hiding behind their screens and dreaming up new ways to give criminals a free pass. It won’t get better unless New Yorkers shame the politicians into doing their job.”
(Video Credit: CBS New York)
CNN reported on the legislation:
The package of legislation included five bills and three resolutions that provide additional oversight and require more transparency from the department. The city council also adopted a policing reform plan mandated by a New York State executive order.
This includes allowing the Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB) to investigate police with a history of bias and racial profiling complaints, as well as giving the board final authority on discipline recommendations for officers. Previously, the police commissioner had the right to disregard recommendations, which was a point of concern during the internal review of Officer Daniel Pantaleo regarding the death of Eric Garner.
But one of the most powerful moves by the council was eliminating qualified immunity. The term refers to a legal principle that protects government officials from civil suits alleging they violated a person’s rights — and which is a hotly debated topic across the country. By creating a new local civil right through legislation, New York City residents will be protected against unreasonable search and seizure and excessive force, and bans officers from using qualified immunity as a defense.
The city council overwhelmingly voted 29-11 to strip Commissioner Shea and those that succeed him of disciplinary decisions. Firing officers will now no longer be the purview of the police commissioner.
“The police commissioner overrules the CCRB (Civilian Complaint Review Board) and/or the trial judge 71 percent of the time,” stated Councilman Stephen Levin of Brooklyn. “That is absolutely evidence of a dysfunctional system.”
Shea pointed out that stripping him of his oversight of discipline will in essence handcuff the department. “Ask any police chief that doesn’t have the final say on discipline and you will find a chief who has had officers returned to duty that shouldn’t have been and in many of those cases more acts of misconduct by an officer the chief wanted to fire.”
“No other city agency uses that system nor does the FBI, the Secret Service, or the Marines. There is a reason for that. You need to know where the buck stops,” Shea proclaimed in a statement.
The council went much further by voting 37-11 to remove the qualified immunity provision. That will make it very easy to sue an officer for alleged excessive force and unreasonable searches and seizures. Officers will stop joining the force because they cannot risk lawsuits.
The issue of race was brought into the oversight of the department as well. The council voted 43-6 to force the NYPD to provide a quarterly report that denotes the race and ethnicity of suspects whenever a stop is made to include: arrests made, the number of summonses issued, vehicles seized, vehicle searches, and related use of force in the line of duty.
“‘Driving while Black’ isn’t just an issue in middle America,” stated Council Public Safety Committee chair Adrienne Adams. “But we have no idea how bad this problem is in New York City because the NYPD doesn’t track race when it writes tickets and it doesn’t report how many stops it makes.”
The council also voted 42-7 to force new officers to live in New York City.
The New York City Law Enforcement Coalition which includes the Sergeants Benevolent Association, Lieutenants Benevolent Association, and the Captains Endowment Association put an electronic message board on a car sitting near City Hall that had a very blunt statement: “New Yorkers shot this year? 250. That’s 41 percent more than last year. What is the City Council doing? Nothing. Except attacking cops. Shame on the City Council.”
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