New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has signed what he says are the most aggressive police accountability measures in the nation, including criminalizing the use of chokeholds, following weeks of protests over the death of George Floyd at the hands of the Minneapolis police.
The changes include requiring police forces across the state to "develop a plan that reinvents and modernizes police strategies and programs" by April 1, 2021, including bias awareness and use of force. Local departments must engage the public in their plans and receive the approval of local officials to be eligible for state funding.
"This emergency regulation will help rebuild that confidence and restore trust between police and the communities they serve by requiring localities to develop a new plan for policing in the community based on fact-finding and meaningful community input," he said.
Cuomo signed the executive order at a ceremony flanked by African American state legislators, the Rev. Al Sharpton, and the mothers of two black men who died at the hands of the New York Police Department in recent years – Sean Bell and Eric Garner.
Cuomo lamented that Garner's death in 2014, and pleas of "I can't breathe" to police, was so closely echoed in George Floyd's killing five years later.
"The same case over and over and over. And still no change. And Mr. Floyd's murder, God bless this country for standing up and saying enough is enough," said Cuomo.
The changes in the law have been vehemently opposed by police unions for years – including allowing the public to access police officers' past disciplinary records, and classifying police use of a chokehold as a felony punishable with up to 15 years in prison. That new law was named the Eric Garner Anti-Chokehold Act.
Sharpton praised the governor but credited demonstrators nationwide for making the changes happen.
"We were told, 'You start with demonstration to lead to legislation and then reconciliation.' Without the legislation, the demonstration is just an exercise," said Sharpton.