City Council Introduces ‘Right To Record Act’

City Council Introduces ‘Right To Record Act’
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Council Member Jumaane Williams in City Hall announcing police transparency bills on July 14. (Courtesy: Office of Jumaane Williams)

The City Council introduced a new bill to enforce New Yorkers’ right to record police activity without intimidation from cops.

The ‘Right to Record Act’ specifically focuses on New Yorkers’ rights to exercise the First Amendment as it also establishes a new reporting requirement. Other legislations passed by the City Council on July 14 highlighted efforts to increase police transparency.

The bill requires the New York Police Department to submit a report to the Mayor and the City Council detailing data on number of arrests, criminal, and civil summons issued. It will be categorized by precinct where the action occurred, charged offenses, as well as race, ethnicity, gender and age of the person arrested or summoned, the bill says.

“This bill is not anti-police. This bill is about wanting police to be better at their jobs. I appreciate the risks they take every day on the job,” said Council Member Jumaane Williams, who sponsored the bill. The ‘Right to Record Act’ is a response to several instances where people, who were recording police activity — which is their constitutional right — were either arrested on trumped up charges, detained, or had their property damaged for exercising their constitutional right.”

Other council members who sponsored the bill include Rosenthal, Carlos Menchaca, Rafael Espinal, Inez Barron, Rosie Mendez, Ydanis Rodriguez.

“I strongly believe that the ability to record leads to more safety and greater accountability on behalf of the police and community members,” Council Member Menchaca said.

Williams said the ‘Right to Record Act’ is a response to several instances where people, who were recording police activity — which is their constitutional right — were either arrested, detained, or brought up on charges.

In recent years, several high-profile cases involving police brutality against civilians garnered attention nationwide because of footage recorded from witnesses. One case includes the death of Eric Garner, a man killed by a Staten Island cop who tried to arrest him for selling “loosies”– untaxed cigarettes —  on the street two years ago.

Cell phone video shot by witness Ramsey Orta showed the cop, Officer Daniel Pantaleo, knock Garner down on the sidewalk choking him to death after he repeatedly said, “I can’t breathe.”

According to the The New York Daily News, Officer Pantaleo, the cop suspected of the crime, hasn’t been charged and is still in the city’s payroll system.

The bill comes after other video surfaced of two incidents where police killed unarmed black men, two weeks ago.

On July 5, Alton Sterling, 37, of Louisiana, was shot by police outside of a convenience store. An eyewitness captured to encounter on video.  A day later, police officers killed Philando Castile, 32, in Minnesota, as Castile’s girlfriend streamed the horror through Facebook live.

“This is an example of the type of lie that may be believed if there isn’t video to defend the victim,” said Williams. “My hope is that this bill will protect eyewitnesses and officers in situations where lies have been told.”

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