NEW YORK — City Council Speaker Corey Johnson on Thursday night defended a package of criminal justice and police reform bills, including one to end qualified immunity for NYPD officers that he called a “no-brainer.”
“These are big bills. It would change the footprint of policing in New York City,” Johnson said in an interview with NY1’s Bobby Cuza on Inside City Hall. “It builds on many of the calls for reform that happened last year after the murder of George Floyd.”
The Council introduced the 11 bills Thursday in an attempt to reshape the police department and increase officer accountability. They initially announced the package of bills late last month.
In addition to ending qualified immunity — which prevents officers from being sued and being liable for misconduct — the package of bills includes:
- Calling on the state to remove the police commissioner’s exclusive authority over police discipline and send it to an independent body
- Giving the City Council a greater say over future police commissioners’ actions, and would requiring the mayor to seek Council approval for appointing a police commissioner
- Investigating police officers with a history of bias
- Requiring the NYPD to issue a quarterly report on traffic stops
- Creating a non-police emergency response unit for mental health calls
- Reforming the role of school safety officers
- Requiring reporting on the turnover rate of school safety
- Transferring crash investigations to the city transportation department
Johnson stressed that the city needs an overhaul of policing, and noted that the city is on a deadline to do so. Last year, Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed an executive order mandating that localities in New York state reinvent their police departments. Localities that do not make changes by April 1 will lose hundreds of millions of dollars in state funding.
Mayor Bill de Blasio, who recently pushed new disciplinary guidelines for the NYPD, is expected to come up with his own plan for police reform in the coming weeks. Johnson says he is not sure if de Blasio will support the 11 bills because he and the mayor have not spoken about them.
“I’m sure there will be some negotiation, but the NYPD and the mayor’s office testified at a Council hearing about a month ago and they didn’t have much to share with us at that point. So we’re plowing ahead with common sense reforms,” Johnson said.
NY1 reached out to City Hall for comment but did not hear back by the time of this story’s publication.
The speaker also told NY1 that the Council could add more bills and resolutions before the April 1 deadline.
Critics of efforts to end qualified immunity have argued scrapping the protection would tie officers’ hands and could end up making them less aggressive in fighting crime if they have to worry about lawsuits. Some critics also worry officer recruitment would decline without qualified immunity.
Johnson rejected those arguments, telling NY1 that he believes ending qualified immunity will lead to better policing.
“We think this would get officers to actually behave more appropriately, and you need this level of accountability,” Johnson said. “I think it’s a bit of a no-brainer for what it should look like. Other states across the country and other cities across the country have been enacting these measures with great success.”
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Watch the full interview above.
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