Manhattan Times: Disregarding Right To Know

A blank card is shown by Victoria Davis.

A blank card is shown by Victoria Davis.

By Gregg McQueen
April 30, 2019

Cops are pulling blanks.

Legislation requiring that New York Police Department (NYPD) ‎officers adhere to new protocols during civilian searches is being disregarded, according to police reform advocates and the City Councilmembers that sponsored the laws.

And even NYPD brass say additional training might be needed.

Victoria Davis recently asked a police officer for his business card after he failed to assist an elderly woman on the street. He handed her a blank card, Davis said, which she asked the officer to fill in.

“He told me that I should fill it in myself,” said Davis, the sister of Delrawn Smalls, who was killed by an off-duty cop in 2016 in a road rage incident. “He refused, he smirked, he laughed, and continued to disrespect me. Then he left the scene.”

Davis brandished the blank card as she spoke out at a press conference on Mon., Apr. 29th denouncing the NYPD for failing comply with the “Right to Know” laws.

The legislation, which went into effect this past October, requires officers to ask for permission before searching a civilian, hand out business cards containing their name and badge info, and inform civilians of their right to refuse certain searches.

But advocates and City Councilmembers said that police officers are failing to provide a business card or providing a blank card instead, ignoring interpretation protocol with New Yorkers who don’t speak English, and still conducting illegal searches.

“It is essential that our rights are preserved above all else,” said Councilmember Antonio Reynoso, who co-sponsored the legislation.

Justice Committee Co-Director Yul-San Liem said her group has seen dozens of Right to Know violations, and added that the Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB) has received more than 100 complaints since the laws were passed.

The grassroots organization, which works to build up underserved communities and mobilizes against police violence, long fought for the legislation’s passage.

“It seems like the NYPD has thought that the Right to Know Act isn’t a law, but it’s a suggestion,” remarked Councilmember Antonio Reynoso, who co-sponsored the legislation. “It is essential that our rights are preserved above all else. We have a right to know who stopped us, why they stopped us, and in cases where we have the right to consent, the officer is supposed to initiate that information.”

Anthony Posada, Supervising Attorney of the Community Justice Unit of the Legal Aid Society, said he has represented food delivery workers who have been stopped for the use of e-bikes.

“I can tell you not a single one of them has received a business card from the NYPD,” he remarked. “It’s not a matter of a few bad apples, but something that’s widespread.”

The press conference took place immediately prior to a Council oversight hearing regarding the NYPD’s implementation of the laws.

“I think there’s a lot of sentiment that this is not a priority for the administration, and it needs to get fixed, and that’s where we come in. We’re the oversight,” said Councilmember Carlos Menchaca.

At the hearing, NYPD’s Executive Director of Legislative Affairs Oleg Chernyavsky defended the police’s implementation of the Right to Know laws and said the Department was focused on reducing the number of “stop and frisk” interactions with the public.

He pointed out that these types of stops have declined 80 percent since 2011.

“It’s not about our officers not wanting to comply with [the new laws], but because it’s something new, maybe we need more training,” he stated.

Chernyavsky said the NYPD was in the process of refining its implementation of the laws.

“There will come a point where we reassess and make necessary changes,” he said. “We are in the process of doing that now and there were several comments from community advocacy groups that make sense and will be included in future revisions.”

Raised at the hearing again was the question of blank cards.

“You say that 1,800 officers put in a request for more cards in March, which means they ran out or [were] about to run out at that time,” asked Councilmember Donovan Richards, Chair of the Committee on Public Safety, of NYPD representatives at Monday’s hearing. “What we don’t want is for officers to have blank cards, we want them to have cards with all of their info. That needs to change.”

Liem said that advocates will continue to monitor the NYPD.

“Our job is to keep being here and keep fighting until the NYPD comes into compliance, and actually stops mistreating communities,” she said.