Bill would compile data on policing practices

Police 1Assemblyman Joseph Lentol and Senator Daniel Squadron are calling for New York to overhaul the system for collecting and reporting data on policing activity throughout the state.

Their Police-STAT Act (A.7698/S.6001) would allow the state to capture and publicly report statistics about policing across the state.

More than 50 people attended a press conference in the Capitol recently to call for more transparency among law enforcement data reporting.

“Transparency is important in all areas of government, but nowhere is it more important than in the creation of an effective and fair criminal justice system,” said Lentol, D-Brooklyn. “When the stakes are this high, policy makers must be well informed in making our decisions and the public must be equally well informed so that they can hold us accountable for these decisions. This bill is truly fundamental in this regard as it will lead us to a government that is stronger and more just.”

The Police-STAT bill would require the collection and public reporting of data on:

  • The total number of arrests and tickets for violations and misdemeanors, and information on their disposition.
  •  The race, ethnicity, age and sex of people who are charged with violations or misdemeanors.
  • The total number of people who die during an interaction with police or in police custody, including demographic information.
  • The geographic location of enforcement activity and arrest-related deaths.

“This is a common sense transparency reform that has the potential to improve our understanding of what’s working and what isn’t in our law enforcement system,” said Squadron, D-Carroll Gardens. “Understanding the numbers behind our law enforcement system is a critical component to making sure our laws are working for New Yorkers.”

Proponents of the bill say data collection of police activity is necessary in the wake of high-profile deaths of civilians during police encounters across the country as well as the ongoing debate over the need for controversial “stop and frisk” programs. The bill sponsors and their advocates say that New York lacks the data to provide policymakers, communities, law enforcement experts and the public with a comprehensive understanding of existing policing policies and practices – whether they are effective, who they are impacting and how, and ways they can be improved.

“Right now, we can’t be sure of the impact that policing activities have in our communities,” said Cessie Alfonso, a member of Citizen Action of New York and resident of Troy, Rensselaer County. “Accurate data on policing activities will help us to ensure that law enforcement organizations are promoting justice through their work.”

The bill, which does not have any co-sponsors in either house yet, would mandate collecting data such as the number of arrests and tickets for violations and misdemeanors, broken down by county and zip code; the race, ethnicity, age, gender, and other demographic information about the people who are charged; the total number of deaths during police interaction or while in police custody, and the outcome of their case.

Donna Lieberman, the executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, said, “It’s time to open the books on policing. The STAT Act is a chance to uncover how New Yorkers of color are targeted for minor infractions, just like Eric Garner was, and those who die in police custody, like Sandra Bland. New Yorkers have learned through tragedy that transparency in policing is vital to safety, and their legislators cannot forget it.”

The bill is in the Codes Committee in both the Senate and Assembly.