A year of progress on police reform


"Justice for George Floyd came swiftly in New York."

So began our June 18-24 editorial last year. We were referring to a 10-bill raft of legislation that Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed in the wake of George Floyd’s murder at the hands of police in Minneapolis.

Among several measures, the legislation:

• Repealed the state’s 1976 50-a statute, which shielded police officers’ disciplinary records from public view. (In the Floyd case, the Minneapolis police officer who killed him, Derek Chauvin, had 18 disciplinary infractions on his record.)

• Banned police from using chokeholds.

• Required state troopers to wear body cameras.

Cuomo also signed an executive order requiring local police departments to develop community-oriented policing plans that were formulated with public input. Plans had to be submitted to the state by this April. The governor gave the people a role in determining how they would be policed.

There was much talk on the right of how such measures would impede police work and endanger officers. Quite the opposite, the legislation has only increased police transparency, slowly but surely building public trust. Tens of thousands of good police officers who do their jobs without incident had no problem with the state’s reform package.

Improving police relations in communities of color could take years, if not decades. The sense of unease and fear that too many Black people feel toward police had been brewing since the creation of the nation’s first police department in New York City in 1844. It will take time to heal. New York state is, however, headed on the right path.

At the same time, Nassau County and the Police Benevolent Association at last recently reached an agreement to require officers to wear body cameras. We wonder why it took so long, particularly given that the Village of Freeport had adopted them as early as 2015 — the first municipality in New York to do so — and why county officers will be paid $3,000 annually to wear them. Wearing a body camera, after all, requires no extra effort, no additional work, on an officer’s part.

We are pleased to see, though, that officers will be wearing them as early as this fall.

Undoubtedly, we, as a nation, have a long way to go before we finally achieve a racially just society. We have seen unarmed Black men killed by police in other parts of the country in recent months. Each death is a tragedy that we hope and pray will not be repeated.

The year since the death of George Floyd was a start toward reform.