Legislature

Legislature approves bill to protect cops under human rights law


The Nassau County Legislature approved a bill that would protect police and other first responders from prejudice and discrimination, much to the chagrin of various activist groups on Monday. (Photo by Robert Pelaez)

The Nassau County Legislature on Monday approved a bill to protect cops and other first responders under a county law designed to protect marginalized people from discrimination.

After an eight-hour public meeting on Monday, the Republican-controlled legislature passed the bill with a 12-6 vote. The legislation, if enacted by Nassau County Executive Laura Curran, would include first responder groups with minority groups discriminated against because of their race, religion or sexual orientation.

Curran touted the work of law enforcement and county first responders, but demanded that New York City Attorney General Letitia James’s office review the bill before making any decisions about whether or not to sign it.

“There have been many speakers today who questioned this legislation,” Curran said in a statement Monday. “Now that it has been passed by the legislature, I will investigate the attorney general’s office to review it and provide advice.”

Curran, in the letter to James’ office, asked authorities to help determine “whether the law strikes the right legal balance between the government‘s responsibility to protect its uniformed personnel and its duty not to interfere with the ability people to exercise their civil rights. rights legally without fear of penalty.

Officials said the county could also sue on behalf of first responders to seek financial damages for “discrimination” if the bill is enacted. The county would also be allowed to sanction suspected violators with a fine of up to $ 25,000 in civil penalties and $ 50,000 if the alleged incident occurred during a riot, officials said.

“The police are essential to protect the freedom of speech of citizens, or to refrain from speaking, of individuals who would use threats and violence to silence those with whom they do not agree or to enforce legal compliance. thought, ”Bill says.

Nassau Police Benevolent Association President James McDermott told Newsday that members of his group “applaud the Nassau County legislature for continuing to stand up for law and order and support our police during this unprecedented time “.

Efforts to reach McDermott or a representative of the association for further comment were unsuccessful.

US Representative Kathleen Rice (D-Garden City) said the bill “violates the spirit of the county’s human rights law” and questioned the legality of the legislation.

“I support policies to protect our police and other first responders,” Rice said in a statement Wednesday. “But it is wrong to codify in law a chosen profession as an immutable human trait in the same way we classify race, nationality, gender, disability and sexual orientation.”

Opponents of the bill argued that there was insufficient data on discrimination or harassment against police and other first responders across the county on Monday.

The Long Island Advocates for Police Accountability group urged Curran to veto the “unconstitutional legislation” in a statement after the bill was passed.

“The community has spoken – and has been ignored again,” the statement said. “This bill is dangerous, unnecessary, does nothing to protect our police officers and is a slap in the face for marginalized communities who have been discriminated against.”

Shanequa Levin of Long Island United to Transform Policing & Community Safety said she applauded police officers who serve the community well and acknowledged that police are needed in all communities. Levin went on to say that there is a stigma throughout law enforcement and residents need to stand up for themselves when these cases occur.

“You’re going to vote on a bill that essentially takes away our rights to defend ourselves when those who don’t do a good job can be rewarded or can retaliate against us,” Levin said.

“Turning [police] in a protected classroom is what this law intends to do, ”civil rights lawyer Frederick Brewington said at a press conference ahead of Monday’s vote. “Turn them into a situation where they matter more in our society than people who have been subjected to abuse, horrific violence and this treatment by the law and the system. “


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