NY bill barring ‘wandering cops’ from LE gains traction

New York lawmakers called the bill “common-sense accountability"

By Denis Slattery
New York Daily News

ALBANY, N.Y. — Legislation that would bar cops who are fired or forced to resign because of misconduct from working in law enforcement in New York is gaining traction in Albany.

Proposed by Sen. Brian Benjamin (D- Harlem), the bill is being picked up by Assemblyman Phil Ramos (D- Suffolk), a former cop who says the measure will do more than just help departments avoid problem officers.

“As a former police officer, I’m proud to co-sponsor this legislation because I’ve seen first-hand the good and bad realities of our state’s policing practices,” Ramos said. “This legislation will keep New Yorkers safe by keeping abusive officers off our streets and setting a national precedent for reform.”

The measure was unveiled days after former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was convicted in the murder of George Floyd, whose death sparked national protests and calls for police reforms.

Benjamin announced the push last weekend alongside City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, both of whom are running for city comptroller,

The bill would prevent any officer who is fired, resigns while under investigation or facing criminal charges or while facing disciplinary action that could result in their dismissal from being hired by any other police force in the state. It would also apply to similarly disgraced cops from out-of-state.

A similar effort is being proposed in the City Council.

Benjamin called the bill “common-sense accountability.”

“For me, this bill is really about public safety,” Benjamin said. “This is about the public, the entire public, feeling that if cops do something wrong they will be held accountable.”

A study published last year in the Yale Law Journal found that so-called “wandering officers” represent a relatively small percentage of overall hires by police departments, but pose a significant risk as they are often the subject of a higher number of misconduct complaints and firings than their fellow officers.

Last year, Pennsylvania enacted a law mandating police departments in the state keep detailed records of why an officer was fired or left their job. The records will become part of a confidential database used by other jurisdictions when looking at new hires.

If an agency chooses to hire an officer despite prior discipline they must write a publicly available report explaining its decision.

Law enforcement reforms have been a priority in New York in recent months as Gov. Cuomo pushed departments across the state to come up with plans to overhaul how they police communities across the state.

The recently enacted budget also included a measure that creates a municipal police training council and a mandatory certification process for many police agencies in the state.

The certification is expected to include standards for hiring practices and reporting requirements.

Benjamin said the new bill will build upon some of the recent changes in New York and help build community relations and even morale within police departments.

“We want to root out bad apples and, if you’re a good police officer, you want us to pass this bill,” he said. “You want us to make sure bad officers are taken off the street because bad police officers are a reflection on those good officers.”

©2021 New York Daily News. Visit nydailynews.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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