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Rally for the Right to Know Act

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Do you live in or around New York City?  Are you itching for something to do this Thursday at noon?  Then I humbly suggest you come out to City Hall for this rally and tell City Council to pass the Right to Know Act.  The Right to Know Act has two parts: the first requires that that by the end of a stop, police officers identify themselves and provide a reason the reason for the stop.  The second requires that police inform people that they have the right to refuse a “consent search,” a search without probable cause.  

I’ll quote Djibril Toure, who testified before City Council in favor of the Right to Know Act at a hearing last June. On one hand, it was a bit inspiring to be able to watch a bunch of different New Yorkers get to talk directly to their representatives.  On the other, it was dispiriting to know that Bratton, the police chief, would always get to talk first, and the press left after he was done. At least I can amplify the community voice:

As an activist and [Bedford-Stuyvesant] resident, I have many concerns about the way that NYPD officers initiate searches on the street without informing citizens of their rights or identity.  For example, in my neighborhood, it is not uncommon to see officers in an unmarked vehicle telling an individual to “come here”.  In many cases this individual may not be officially ‘stopped’ and has legal protection including their consent as to whether of not they are searched.  Often people submit to a search of their person or vehicle without realizing that they have the legal right not to consent.  The searches are now considered as “consensual searches” by NYPD and are not included in uf-250 forms or reported to precinct personnel.  The process of getting individuals to consent to sometimes unreasonable searches is a commonplace one in many neighborhoods of color and lowers the real number of stops that are reported by NYPD.  Our hope is that city council takes serious consideration of (INT 541 – Consent to search) as it directly relates to the trust and willingness of many communities who have been victimized to interact with NYPD.  This protection against unconsensual searches will increase the abilities of individuals to know their rights in a police encounter and make citizens more confident that they are not being violated by a search.  In addition, the identification of officers is often an issue when people are stopped and or searched.  I have seen and videotaped (as a member of copwatch) undercover vehicles on duty with their license plate bent in half so that it cannot be read.  This should be absolutely unacceptable to a modern police department that want to win the trust of its citizens but it exists.  I have also seen and witnessed officers who refuse to identify themselves while on duty, which is a violation of police training.  If an individual is stopped or searched, and has no way of being able to identify that officer, how does that help bring trust to these communities who have been victimized by discriminatory policies in the past?

I think we should be clear that these proposals will not make a police officer’s job harder, or cause them not to stop someone who is a suspect with reasonable information.  What these will do is show the public that there are changes going on to benefit them in a police encounter so the level of fear and mistrust is lessened by policy.  This is an important step to building a community where law enforcement is seen as a part of the neighborhood and not as an outside occupying force.  INT 182a [the ID bill] and INT 541 are basic steps to rebuilding the trust that all citizens should have with the proper enforcement of the law.  Help us build safer communities and pass these bills into law.

So, listen to Toure!  Come out and demonstrate for the Right to Know Act tomorrow at noon, City Hall.  I’ll be there.  

 

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