November 18, 2014

PBA Denounces As ‘Anti-Police’ Bill Requiring Disclosure on Searches


The Chief-Leader/Michel Friang
‘THIS ISN’T MR. ROGERS’ NEIGHBORHOOD’: Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association President Patrick J. Lynch expresses opposition to a bill that would require police officers to inform citizens that they have the right to refuse a search. ‘We have to focus on the criminal saying ‘no’ and it’s going to turn into a confrontation,’ he said.

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Progressive City Council members and police-reform advocates last week unveiled a bill that would require police officers who want to search a suspect to explain that he or she has the right to say “no” unless probable cause or other factors exist.

Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association President Patrick J. Lynch immediately denounced the bill as unnecessary and dangerous to police and the public alike.

‘Disincentive to Policing’

“The negative anti-police message that this out-of-control City Council consistently sends is a disincentive to proactive policing that will leave cops standing on the corner like potted palms,” he said. 

Police Commissioner William J. Bratton said the bill was “an onerous and unnecessary intrusion...It’s totally unnecessary. It’s part of an ongoing effort to bridle the police and the City of New York.”

Mayor de Blasio, two days after announcing that possession of small amounts of marijuana would merit a summons rather than an arrest in most cases, also expressed misgivings. “You know, we obviously have to protect the rights of our people, but we also have to make sure that we’re not, in any way, undermining the ability of law enforcement to do its job,” he said Nov. 12.

The bill, titled the Right to Know Act, would also mandate that officers identify themselves when they stop someone. A similar item was originally part of the Community Safety Act, passed in August 2013 with the aim of forcing the NYPD to cut back on stop-and-frisks. It was later dropped from the legislation, which when passed expanded the right to sue police for alleged profiling and set up an independent Inspector General for the department.

The Right to Know Act is sponsored by freshman Councilmen Ritchie Torres and Antonio Reynoso.

“While Mayor de Blasio’s recent announcement about curbing marijuana arrests is a step in the right direction, none of the policies set forth so far have dealt with the on-the-ground interactions between police and people, particularly the young men of color who are targeted at the highest rates,” Mr. Torres said. “The Right to Know Act will go a long way toward improving these interactions.”

Mr. Reynoso said the law would not expand the right to refuse a search, merely require officers to inform New Yorkers when there is no probable cause, warrant or other reason to justify one.

“We’re putting forth a piece of legislation to give a piece of information,” he said. “That’s all we’re doing.”

Backed by NYCLU

Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, said the bill was “an important step in closing the book on New York’s tale of two cities.”

Councilman Donovan Richards described an incident when he was walking past a fire scene and a police officer “grabbed my arm and told me not to move any further.” When he asked the officer for his name, the cop refused to provide it.

“Police officers too often take advantage of our communities’ lack of understanding about their right to refuse searches and their right to insist on the officer’s identification,” said Justine Luongo of the Legal Aid Society. “The proposed legislation seeks to limit the NYPD’s ability to take advantage of this lack of requiring the police officers to educate people immediately during an encounter.”

An hour after the press conference, Mr. Lynch spoke to reporters at PBA headquarters in lower Manhattan.

‘Council Overstepping’

“New York City police officers are doing a professional job,” he said. “There’s oversight on how we do our job. There’s state law on how we do our job. What the City Council is saying by overstepping their authority is, one, that police officers are wrong from the beginning, and second they think we work in Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood.”

He noted that often officers are dealing with criminals “so we have to focus on the criminal who’s going to say ‘no’ and it’s going to turn into a confrontation. This is a solution in search of a problem.”