Police data bill left out of budget; STAT Act benefits cops and civilians, supporters say

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A bill that would require the state court system to compile data on policing practices was left out of the 2016 New York State budget. Now, advocates of the bill (S.6001/A.7698-a), including Assemblyman Joseph Lentol and Senator Daniel Squadron, are calling for adoption of the Police STAT Act before the end of session, which would allow for more transparency about police arrest records and procedures.

Civil Rights Organizer Brandon Holmes of VOCAL New York says the bill would allow the state to capture and publicly report vital information about policing, including the total number of arrests and tickets for violations and misdemeanors; the race, ethnicity, age and sex of people who were charged with violations and misdemeanors; the total number of people who die during an interaction with police or in police custody; and the location of enforcement activity and arrest related deaths.

Lentol, D-Brooklyn, said during a recent news conference in Albany that, “this is not an anti-police bill. In my opinion it is a pro-police bill.”

Lentol believes the bill would offer new protections for officers involved in any type of a confrontation, in addition to providing more insight and information about police interactions with civilians.

Some of the key points of the bill include:

  • The compiling and publishing of data on misdemeanor offenses
  • The specific offenses that a person is charged with
  •  The race, ethnicity, age and sex of the person charged
  • Whether the person was issued a summons or appearance ticket, was subject to custodial arrest, or was held to arraignment as a result of a misdemeanor
  • The zip code of where the offense occurred
  • The sentence imposed, including fines, fees and surcharges
  • The reason for dismissal of charges, if applicable

“The police resisted tremendously when we put cameras on [police cars]. It not only helped people who said that they were wronged by the police, it helped the police,” Lentol said. The Police STAT Act would have the same effect, the assemblyman said, because it would provide more information to the public, as well as protect police officers who have been wrongly accused of crimes such as police brutality.

Despite the fact that the bill was not included in the 2016-2017 budget, advocates of the bill say they will continue to fight for it this session.

Lentol is also of the belief that this bill would help police-community relations. In many parts of the country, including New York City, the relationships between police and some communities have been strained over the past number of years because of deaths that have happened while citizens were in police custody or in a police confrontation, such as the shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., and the chokehold death of Eric Garner in Staten Island.

Lentol believes that this bill will help lay the groundwork to improve these relationships and possibly make them better than they ever were.

Federal law enforcement officials and criminal justice experts acknowledge there is a void in the data that would help explain the impact of policing activity in certain communities. There is currently no federal or state requirement to ensure such data is collected and publicly reported, meaning there is no public accounting of various types of police activity — from routine police practices to even the number of people who are killed during police encounters. The data, say the bill supporters, would help policy experts, and even the public, know whether policing procedures are effective, who they are impacting and how, and how they can be improved.

Squadron, D-Brooklyn, the bill’s Senate sponsor, agreed there is a mutual benefit from this bill for both police and citizens.

“Officers on the street and civilians on the street are the ones who would most benefit from this because police departments and state policy-makers need to have the kind of data that the STAT Act would require in order to give better direction, make better decisions, and understand, really, what’s right, what’s fair, and what’s effective.”

The Assembly bill was referred to the Codes Committee in January, and was amended and recommitted to Codes in late March. The Senate bill has been in the Codes Committee since January.