NYSBA Task Force Proposes Sweeping Police Reforms in Groundbreaking Report
Requiring all police officers to have college degrees, a professional license and liability insurance are among the many innovative recommendations included in a comprehensive report by the New York State Bar Association’s (NYSBA) Task Force on Racial Injustice and Police Reform, adopted by the association’s House of Delegates at its June 12 meeting.
The 114-page report features 23 groundbreaking recommendations – that combined with recently enacted legislative reform in the wake of George Floyd’s death — can achieve a racially just 21st century approach to policing. Other proposals include increasing the duration and focus of police academy training; focusing hiring efforts on recruiting women and people of color; requiring all police officers to wear body cameras and to install them in all police vehicles; changing state laws to give communities control over police discipline; minimizing the influence of police unions on disciplinary actions; and reforming qualified immunity to allow a civil remedy for violations of an individual’s rights.
“We are at another crisis point with policing in the United States and New York. Harmful policing practices are resulting in misconduct that disproportionately impacts Black people and a culture that allows these practices to continue unchecked,” said NYSBA President T. Andrew Brown, who co-chairs the task force with Taa Grays. “We need to rethink what policing should be. These 23 recommendations combine best practices and technological advances that will help the police to better serve a 21st century community that has significantly evolved since police departments were established in the 18th century.”
A key component of modernizing law enforcement, according to the report, is rethinking the type of person who should be a police officer and how that officer’s career is managed from being a rookie to a senior leader in the department. Through the task force’s research, the panel identified five key stages of policing that need enhancement in order to achieve a 21st century policing model: hiring, training, activities while “on the beat,” monitoring, and disciplining.
The task force further envisions 21st century policing in New York State to include:
- Aligning police professionals with other professions in terms of education, licensing, and continuous substantive legal training.
- Holding police departments accountable for misconduct through inclusive and empowered community engagement.
- Modifying criminal law procedures that hinder holding police officers accountable for misconduct as well as increasing diversity and diversity training for police, district attorneys, public defenders, and courts.
- Leveraging technology to obtain data, which will improve monitoring and oversight and strengthen accountability.
The task force was launched last year by then NYSBA President Scott M. Karson in the wake of George Floyd’s killing by a Minneapolis police officer. The mission of the task force was to understand the issues that contribute to police misconduct and provide recommendations to policymakers, law enforcement and the judiciary to end harmful policing practices that disproportionately impact persons of color.
Those contributing to the work of the task force included former police officers throughout the ranks, members of the criminal justice system including prosecutors, public defenders and judges, and elected officials, community organizers, and citizens impacted by police misconduct.
The task force included five committees: Committee on Civilian Review Boards; Committee on Misconduct, Internal Review and Discipline; Committee on Police Recruitment; Committee on Prosecutor and Court Reform; and Committee on Legislation.
About the New York State Bar Association
The New York State Bar Association is the largest voluntary state bar association in the nation. Since 1876, NYSBA has helped shape the development of law, educated and informed the legal profession and the public, and championed the rights of New Yorkers through advocacy and guidance in our communities.
Contact: Susan DeSantis