After weeks of nationwide protests following the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a 10-bill package of police reforms passed earlier in the week by the State Legislature. Among the reforms, the measures:
* Repealed the state’s 1976 50-a statute, which shielded police officers’ disciplinary records from public view. (In the Floyd case, the Minneapolis police officer who killed him, Derek Chauvin, had 18 disciplinary infractions on his record.)
* Banned police from using chokeholds.
* Required state troopers to wear body cameras.
Cuomo also signed an executive order requiring local police departments to develop community-oriented policing plans that are to be formulated with public input. The governor is giving the people a role in determining how they will be policed.
In an email to the Herald, James Vafeades, commissioner of the Rockville Centre Police Department, said village police “will continue to support any new legislation that provides transparency and fairness to our residents.
“We want to continue to provide service in a safe, non-discriminatory manner,” he added.
Local governments have until next April 1 to redesign their police departments, or they will face the possibility of losing state funding. Those governments must account for the size of their police forces, the weapons they employ, their disciplinary procedures for punishing offending officers and a citizen-complaint process.
Rockville Centre resident Deana Davoudiasl, a member of advocacy organization Indivisible Nassau County (formerly Indivisible Rockville Centre), has been on the front lines calling for change — leading chants of “Black Lives Matters” at protests and efforts for changes to systems of policing. She helped organize the June 1 “Justice for George Floyd” rally at the county legislature building, which kicked off weeks of nonstop protesting across Long Island.
“Government officials should plan to have the voices of Long Island’s youth actively engaged in this initiative,” Davoudiasl said, “especially the black and brown voices that encounter police on a daily basis.”
Davoudiasl is also a steering committee member of Young Long Island for Justice, a coalition of young activists and partner organizations working for change in policing policies. Kiana Abbady, also one of the group’s steering committee members, applauded Cuomo’s actions, as well.
“Young Long Island for Justice supports the governor's call to reform local police,” Abbady, of Freeport, said. “Our organization plans to send a letter to all governments with police departments requesting a seat at the discussion table.”
Vafeades acknowledged the importance of including public opinion in efforts to reform the department.
“It is important that members of our minority community have trust in their police department and these are steps in that direction,” he said. “We welcome community input in an effort to further build on this effort.”
Scott Brinton contributed to this story.