After what he called “another long and ugly night” in the U.S., Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the “Say Their Name” Reform Agenda on Friday, which features four main “cornerstones” in response to nationwide acts of police brutality and racism.
Making police disciplinary records “transparent,” “banning” chokeholds, making false race-based 911 reports a hate crime and having the Attourney General act as an independent prosecutor for any police murder case are all part of Cuomo’s agenda, which he’s calling on the state to pass next week.
Cuomo’s announcement comes less than a day after a graphic viral video of a Buffalo police officer pushing a 75-year-old protester Martin Gugino — where other officers can be seen walking away as he bleeds from the head — became the No. 1 trending topic in the U.S. on Twitter. The video, filmed by WBFO’s Mike Desmond, has been picked up by national networks and shared by celebrities like Seth Rogen and Ice Cube.
Many called on Cuomo and Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown to fire the officer responsible for pushing Gugino and those walking away. Brown and Cuomo announced last night that two of the officers were suspended without pay, pending an investigation, and today Cuomo said he spoke to Gugino on the phone and that the Erie County District Attorney’s office is investigating the incident.
Cuomo showed the video and another act of police violence in New York City during his daily briefing on Friday, calling it “fundamentally offensive and frightening.”
“Mr. Floyd’s murder was the breaking point of a long list of deaths that were unnecessary and abusive,” Cuomo said about the killing of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police, which sparked the recent protests. “… What people are saying is we must change and we must stop the abuse… And New York should be at the forefront of that.”
Cuomo said he hopes the legislation will pass, citing the state’s approach to the coronavirus pandemic as a way the state made change in “a very fundamental way.”
Cuomo’s agenda announcement follows the week of protests throughout the country and the Capital Region over police brutality. It also comes after the arrest of local couple Kimani Addison and Desiree Shuman, who Albany city police officers forced out of their vehicle after a verbal altercation, pinned them to the ground and arrested them Tuesday. On Thursday, the Albany Common Council then called on five policing reforms including the repeal of 50A of the NYS Civil Rights Law — which states the “personnel records” of police officers, firefighters and corrections officers are “confidential and not subject to inspection or review” without the officer’s permission — and requesting all Albany police personnel to wear body cameras.
Cuomo is encouraging the Erie County DA to move quickly.
“I was sick to my stomach. It was the same feeling I’ve had for 90 of the past nights when I would get the death total from coronavirus,” Cuomo said. “I think Mayor Brown was 100% right in suspending the police officers last night. The firing is then a contractual, collective-bargaining question. I think the city should pursue firing and I think the DA should look at the situation for criminal charges.”