Community activists testified in front of the New York City Council Monday at a hearing on proposed police reforms, amid an urgent push to improve interactions between civilians and authorities following outrage over police-involved killings.
Families of Eric Garner, Ramarley Graham and other victims of violent police interactions in the past decade are especially calling for two pieces of legislation under the Right to Know Act, to be passed.
"There must be accountability, transparency and respectful communication in the most common daily interactions, whether on the street, in our cars or in our homes," the families of the surviving members said in a joint statement.
The Right to Know Act states that police officers must identify themselves to those they interact with. The officer also would be required to tell the person they are stopping the reason why they are being stopped.
Secondly, the bill protects individuals from unconstitutional searches. Officers would have to explain to those they stop that they do not have to agree to being searched when there is no legal justification for the search. Furthermore, officers would have "to obtain objective proof" from a civilian for a search that has no legal basis.
Currently the ID bill has 30 supporters on the city council. The search bill has 24 supporters. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio opposes the legislation, stating that the bill may be "undermining" officers' ability to do their jobs.
Patrick Lynch, president of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, is also against the act being passed. “The Council’s meddling and uninformed proposals will prevent police officers from taking the actions that they reasonably believe they should to secure the situation in encounters with potentially armed and dangerous suspects," Lynch told the Huffington Post in November.
Currently, the Department of Justice is investigating the chokehold death of Garner, who was killed by Officer Daniel Pantaleo in July. Graham's family has made countless calls to the federal government for an investigation into his death after a grand jury decided not to indict the officer who shot him dead in their home in 2012.
Supporters of Right to Know want to prevent these unnecessary deaths again in the future.
"There’s no reason for encounters to escalate towards disrespect and even abuse because a New Yorker asks a police officer who they are and why they’re being stopped, or exercises their right to refuse a search that has no legal justification,” the families wrote in their joint statement.
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(Photos from left: AP Photo/Family photo via National Action Network, Andrew Burton/Getty Images)