As part of New York’s effort to “reimagine public safety,” lawmakers have introduced a bill that would prevent fired officers from getting rehired within the state.
The bill, authored by Sen. Brian Benjamin, would make it so officers who have been dismissed, have resigned during an investigation that could result in their termination or are facing pending criminal charges from their actions, would be unable to be hired in the state as a police officer. The law would also apply to applicants from out of state.
A study in the Yale Law Journal found that “wandering officers,” or officers who move to a different agency after being fired for misconduct, are fairly common in the U.S. In fact, The Washington Post found that 3% of officers in the state of Florida were previously fired from a different agency. The study noted that previously fired officers tend to become the subject of a higher number of misconduct complaints and firings than other officers.
Benjamin is collaborating with New York City Council members Francisco Moya and Speaker Corey Johnson to introduce the bill on both the city and state level.
Benjamin claims that the law will ensure higher standards for law enforcement professionals. “If you have the power and the privilege to enforce the law, you must be held to a higher standard. That standard has to include making sure that cops know that they can’t just do whatever they want to do,” he told CBS News.
Benjamin said the bill was a response to the Minneapolis shooting of Daunte Wright by Officer Kim Potter who resigned following the shooting. The intent of the bill is to prevent officers like Potter, who have had troubling incidents in the past, from being re-hired.
Benjamin also referred to the culture of policing as “toxic.” “The culture of policing is so toxic that this kind of a situation with Kim Potter and Daunte Wright could happen and enough is enough. We have to be much more aggressive and much more clear,” he said.
Benjamin is a strong proponent of police reform and previously sponsored the Eric Garner Anti-Chokehold Act, which made it a felony for officers to use a chokehold. Now, he is confident this bill will pass.
“A bill like this is a common-sense bill. I actually don’t have any concerns about it passing because the bill is a very basic bill and it’s hard for anyone to justify, particularly in this moment, the idea that if a cop was fired in one jurisdiction, they can get a job in another jurisdiction.”
The Democrat senator also referred to the conviction of Derek Chauvin in the murder of George Floyd as something that will help his cause in “reimagining public safety” and “redesigning the whole process.”
Civil rights activist Reverend Al Sharpton also made an appearance alongside Benjamin to announce the bill.
“We’ve seen police officers fired from their posts for their actions, and then go work for the police force in another jurisdiction. This is not right…In this moment, following the trial of George Floyd, New York needs to stand up and legislate, and that’s what these leaders are doing,” he said in a press release.