Civil rights groups say police officers are targeting working city residents who use knives for their jobs. NY1 Criminal Justice Report Dean Meminger told us about this story last month, now pressure is building on the governor to change the law, which has resulted in thousands being arrested each year.
A knife fight of sorts over what many workers call utility knives, but the NYPD and the mayor call them illegal gravity knives.
Andrew Siconolfi says he was unfairly slapped in handcuffs.
"I have never even seen a knife opened in the fashion when they did it, when they demonstrated it in front of me," said Siconolfi. "I complied and now I am here without a job that I lost because of my involvement with this crime."
Civil rights groups and public defenders gathered at City Hall to say the decades-old law governing gravity knives must be changed.
That’s a knife where the blade is in the handle, but opens quickly by the force of gravity. The groups say cops are forcing the utility knives open with an aggressive flick of the wrist.
"The knives weren't designed to be flipped open that way, but the police officer was trained to open it that way," said Martin LaFalce, a Legal Aid attorney. "To be blunt, this law is a way for the NYPD to make numbers."
"I spent ten days on Rikers Island until a judge released me on my own recognizance," said Levele Pointer.
Advocates say 86 percent of those arrested are Black and Latino.
The state legislature has voted to change the gravity knife law which would make it harder to arrest people for utility knives. It's up to governor Cuomo to sign the bill by the end of the year.
But the NYPD and Mayor Bill de Blasio are urging the governor not to do it.
"An easily and quickly deployed blade is an inherently dangerous weapon and has no place on city streets," said Austin Finan, a spokesman for the mayor. "Any effort to decriminalize these knives runs counter to the hard work officers are doing to keep our city safe."
But state law makers say utility knives are not being used for crimes.
"From 2003 to 2103, 60,000 people may be even more have been prosecuted for possession of nothing more than a folding knife," said Manhattan Assemblyman Dan Quart.
"And this is the only mayor that is asking for the governor to veto this bill," said Staten Island Senator Diane Savino. "So the rest of the state feels this is an unjust law."
When it comes to the knife legislation, the governor's office would only say it is looking at the issue.