Pols announce passage of landmark criminal justice and police reform bills

Following the recent death of George Floyd, as well as a history of police misconduct, state lawmakers passed a package of bills aimed to reform an antiquated criminal justice system.

The legislation included a repeal to 50-A and introduced the Eric Garner Chokehold Act, the Amy Cooper Act, banned racial profiling and required law enforcement to provide medical and mental first aid to individuals in custody.

On Wednesday, Assemblywoman Nathalia Fernandez was joined by Senators Jamaal Bailey and Luis Sepulveda, Assemblyman Michael Blake and Angie Kearse, as she discussed her new law, dedicated to Andrew Kearse.

“Our officers take an oath to protect us and that is an oath that must be upheld,” Fernandez said. “‘I Can’t Breathe’ should never be someone’s last words. I am thankful to the advocates, to Angie Kearse and to everyone who stood out in the streets in protest demanding for change.”

In 2017, Kearse, 36, was arrested and told the officers several times he couldn’t breathe but the cops did not render aid. He had a heart attack and died before they reached the police station.

The new law makes it a crime if law enforcement does not offer medical assistance to those in their custody.

“Andrew pleaded and begged for his life more than 17 times in seven minutes,” his widow said. “Andrew stated that he could not breathe.”

Since it happened three years ago she has made it her mission to get justice for him. Kearse praised the elected officials and noted that Senator Elizabeth Warren has reached out to her and hopes to pass this at the federal level.

“When Nathalia said that she would help me and be his voice and advocate for him it was such a wonderful thing and I thank God Governor Cuomo signed this,” she said.

Bailey, who chairs the Codes Committee and oversaw the recent police reform said more must be done.

“Last week we were able to accomplish monumental change in the State of New York,” Bailey said. “However, this is just the first step in this uphill battle. For far too long, society has permitted injustice to permeate our communities, but as a legislature, we are taking decisive steps forward to remedy that. The advocates, the mothers, the families, and the people have spoken, and we will no longer accept the death or the brutality against an innocent black person. The police reforms that were passed were necessary.”

Assemblyman Blake, who has experienced police brutality on two occasions, said enough is enough. With passion in his voice, Blake stressed that he is tired of seeing black and brown people fearing for their lives.

He recalled meeting Angie Kearse a couple years ago at a church in Harlem and her story shook him. It has now been three weeks since the murder of George Floyd and it took eight minutes and 46 seconds to change the world.

Blake is grateful for the recent police reform, but cops must treat people better, he said.

“I’m not saying every single cop is racist,” he commented. “We’re here to change more laws and stand for Angie. Because of what Nathalia and Jamaal did the country will now have a chance for justice.”

The pols also addressed qualified immunity, which essentially allows police to not be sued in civil court. Cops need to be held accountable, Blake said.

“We should be the ones who have protection,” Blake exclaimed.

What angered the electeds was hearing PBA President Pat Lynch say cops are being treated like “animals and thugs.” Blake questioned where Lynch was when the police SUVs ran into people in Brooklyn or cops tear gassed peaceful protesters at 138 and Brook Avenue.

“The leadership of the PBA are white supremacists who don’t give a damn about black and Latino people,” Blake said. “The leadership of the PBA should just shut the hell up. The notion they are being treated like animals. They are the ones denying us the ability to breathe.”

“As a black man I’m tired of crying,” he continued. “I’m tired of wondering if I’m going to get a text message saying someone was killed. There are too many cops that have a mindset of beat and kill first and lie about it later.”

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