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AAAAAARGH

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The thrilling conclusion to the replication saga is coming, I swear, and in fact I was working on an amendment today, when this happened.

In brief, the Right to Know Act, which I’ve posted about before, comprises two bills before New York City Council: one that requires police to provide identification during a stop, and the reason for a stop, and another that requires police to inform people that they have a right to refuse a search without probable cause, and to obtain evidence of consent.  Hundreds of community groups and thousands of people (including, in a small way, me) have been organizing for years for these laws. Melissa Mark-Viverito, City Council speaker, and Chief Bratton just made a private deal to prevent the bills coming to a vote (the bills easily have the votes to pass, though only the ID bill has a veto-proof majority), because Bratton promises the NYPD will do it on its own:

The procedures, agreed to by Council leaders, the de Blasio administration and police leaders, may significantly change interactions between officers and people on the street in certain encounters. Officers would soon be required to hand out business cards when asked; officers seeking to conduct searches in the absence of a legal basis would be trained to request consent by eliciting a yes-or-no response and walk away if it is declined.

But the administrative changes proposed would not have the force of law. Compliance would be contingent on the Police Department’s enforcing the new rules, to be set forth in the Patrol Guide, the agency’s rule book.

Communities United for Police Reform issued this statement:

At such a crisis moment where people are literally losing their lives due to a lack of police accountability, including in New York City, it is beyond disappointing that our city will fail to set an example by allowing the failures in police accountability to continue without legislative oversight. The frequent abuses in people’s most common everyday interactions with police that go unaccounted for are what perpetuate and lead to police brutality and killings. New York City will fail to address this by pursuing this administrative agreement instead of legislation.

The Right to Know Act has the votes to pass the Council, is supported by over 200 community groups from across the city, and the policies it advances have been endorsed by the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing. An agreement with the NYPD does not hold the weight of legislative oversight and these administrative changes are watered down and on top of existing NYPD rules that are already frequently violated without repercussion. There should be no confidence that this agreement will provide meaningful change for communities – without real accountability and enforcement mechanisms, police abuses that leave community members at risk of harm will continue in everyday interactions.

I think the single part of this article that makes me the angriest is this one:

Mr. Bratton told the Council last year that he opposed measures like the search bill as “unprecedented intrusions” into the management of the Police Department. Instead, he said at the time, the department would have preferred to “collaborate” with the Council and reach common ground without legislation.

That’s right.  God forbid the elected representatives of the people of the city of New York intrude upon the guys with guns who act with effective impunity.  Oh, you were busy harassing, humiliating, and violating people?  Well then, we’re sorry to intrude.  If these measures are not too burdensome to enact as voluntary policies, then there is just no reason for Bratton and NYPD not to bloody well think about what the words “public servant” actually mean and accept that they are bound by the force of law.  Communicating with the people they stop on the street about who they are, the reason for the stop, and a citizen’s right to refuse violations of body and privacy should not be at their discretion.   

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