Justice for George Floyd came swiftly in New York.
During two weeks of intense protests at hundreds of locales across the state, Black Lives Matter protesters decried Floyd’s death and demanded systemic changes in the way policing is carried out here.
Last Friday, the protesters got their wish when Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a 10-bill package of reforms passed earlier in the week by the State Legislature. Among the reforms, the measures:
• Repealed the state’s 1976 50-a statute, which shielded police officers’ disciplinary records from public view.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 are to be formulated with public input. The governor is giving the people a role in determining how they will be policed.
Local governments have until next April 1 to redesign their police departments, or they will face the possibility of losing state funding. Those governments must account for the size of their police forces, the weapons they employ, their disciplinary procedures for punishing offending officers and a citizen-complaint process.
Nassau County and cities and villages with police departments must hold public hearings to help plot the future of policing here. In particular, Nassau’s communities of color must be heard. Hearings should be held in their neighborhoods to ensure that the maximum number of people attend and comment.
If carried out properly, the process should be healthy. Police will face scrutiny as they never have before, but surely they will also hear from many grateful residents whom they have aided through the years. The criticism will be necessary in order to develop a set of regulations and guidelines to make sure there is never again a death like that suffered by Floyd.
The majority of police are hardworking, decent people. No doubt, they do not deserve to be lumped in with the likes of Chauvin. This process, if done right, will not do that. Rather, it will focus on the policies and protocols needed to reform a system that is long overdo for an overhaul.