The New York Civil Liberties Union will today testify before the New York City Council in support of the Right to Know Act, a package of two bill which require police to identify themselves when they stop someone and explain why the stop is taking place, and inform a person when he has a right to refuse being searched.
“The Right to Know Act is essential to rebuild trust between police and New Yorkers following decades of overly aggressive policing targeting our communities of color,” said NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman. “We cannot wait for another tragedy like Eric Garner or Akai Gurley to acknowledge how police encounters have the potential to escalate into tragedy. New York City needs communication, transparency and accountability in everyday interactions between police officers and the people they are supposed to protect and serve.”
The Right to Know Act includes two legislative measures. The first requires officers to identify themselves to people who they stop and explain why the stop is taking place, increasing mutual respect in police-community interactions and reducing hostility. The second measure protects New Yorkers from being coerced into agreeing to voluntary searches. It requires officers to explain that a person has the right to refuse a search when there is no legal justification for the search, and to obtain objective proof that the person gave informed and voluntary consent.
The Right to Know Act was endorsed nearly verbatim by President Obama’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing -- which included several police chiefs from across the country -- that made recommendations for improving policing practices across the board.
“Improving communication between police officers and the public in daily interactions is necessary to reduce hostile incidences and increase the safety of both people and officers,” said NYCLU Advocacy Director Johanna Miller. “The Council has voiced their commitment to enhancing community policing in our city, and the Right to Know Act will further that goal by increasing transparency and accountability, encouraging respect for constitutional rights and promoting safety.”