The legislation recently introduced into state law would require local police officers to be licensed by the state.
The Police and Peace Officer Licensing Act (A.4517 / S.6219) is sponsored by Senator James Sanders Jr., D-South Ozone Park, and Rep. Daniel O’Donnell, D-New York City.
“New York State licenses and oversees a wide variety of professions from educators to doctors to hairdressers and interior designers.” Sanders and O’Donnell wrote in their legislative justification. “When licensed professionals commit misconduct in these areas, their licenses can be suspended or revoked by a government agency. However, New York does not have such a licensing system for police and peace officials: in New York, almost all disciplinary powers are left to city police departments and agencies, who directly employ police and peace officials, many of whom have negotiated contracts to protect officers discipline, even if they commit serious misconduct. “
A municipal police training council would be tasked with establishing a mandatory licensing program by January 1, 2023 and granting all police officers currently in office a five-year license. The council would also need to set training requirements for police officers for license renewal and new de-escalation and awareness training requirements for new officers after January 1, 2023.
The law also creates a seven-member independent police and peace officer licensing body to investigate allegations of wrongdoing against licensed police and peace officials. Directors could revoke or suspend a police officer’s license if an officer is found to have committed misconduct. The board would define professional misconduct.
Sanders and O’Donnell cite a 2020 investigation by ProPublica and The City that found that a civil review board found at least 40 cases of officers using illegal chokeholds, but none of the officers were fired and continued to serve.
“Officials could no longer serve as police and peace officers for a New York state agency or community if their licenses are suspended or revoked.” Sanders and O’Donnell wrote.
Another bill introduced earlier this week is S.6218, sponsored by Senator Kevin Thomas, D-Garden City, which would make it a Class D crime for a police officer falsely report an incident and a crime Class D if a police officer commits the crime of forging business records. Such incidents are currently offenses.
“It is critical that police reports describe what happened honestly and accurately.” Thomas wrote in his legislative justification. “Police reports are often important documents and evidence that prosecutors, juries and judges rely on. Police officers lie in police reports because, if true, the allegations would warrant a stop, arrest or confiscation. When a police officer lies, provides false police reports, omits facts from police reports, or provides inaccurate information or evidence that constitutes police misconduct, and increases the likelihood that innocent individuals will be wrongly prosecuted, convicted or detained. As more police encounters are recorded by witnesses or body cameras worn by officers, misreporting is being exposed in cases where the officer’s testimony could otherwise be accepted as true. “
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