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January 7, 2015

Can The City Of New York Force The NYPD To Behave Better

By Michael H. Joseph

New York City’s council is considering passing a law which will require police who make stops of civilians during street encounters to identify themselves by handing out cards with their names on them to those that they come in contact with. The law which seeks to promote better community relations will require police officers to inform those whom they are trying to search that they are not required to consent to a search and that they can refuse to be searched unless probable cause is present. The law would also require that the conversation be recorded by audio or that the consent be in writing to document that the search was consented to. This law would only apply in New York City’s five boroughs including Manhattan, the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island. The law would have no effect on Westchester, Rockland or Long Island.

This law is likely to be ignored by the police or they are likely to engage in further twisting and manipulations of fact to create probable cause because a street encounter, where cop thinks someone is doing something illegal or has hunch often does not have probable cause, but is nevertheless determined to search the individual anyway. In other words, if the police were going to obey the law, this law would not be necessary because the Constitution prohibits the type of street encounter or traffic stop and search that happens every day in Westchester and New York City. While motivated by good intentions, our New York City criminal defense lawyers are skeptical as to whether this law will result in compliance or an even greater amount of fabrication to justify baseless searches than is already occurring. What is also unclear is what the remedy will be for failure to comply and whether Judges will suppress evidence, especially in felony cases that are prosecuted at a federal level, where police officers do not comply with or evade a City ordinance.

If law makers are serious about eliminating the problems of harassing searches without probable cause by police officers, our Westchester criminal defense lawyers recommend that the police wear continuously recording cameras. Municipalities that have instituted these measures have seen a drop in police misconduct complaints because police officers are more likely to follow the rules when they know that they are being recorded. Also, cameras protect officers from spurious claims of excessive force when the force was legitimately used and serve to further the truth seeking function of the Court system by showing what really happened. Our White Plains criminal defense lawyers believe that a camera is the only unbiased witness that cannot twist or manipulate facts. Interestingly, if the police in New York City are required to record their interaction by ordinance and they fail to do so, this may raise a presumption of spoliation based upon missing evidence, which will allow Judges in the Criminal Courts to suppress evidence, where an officer claims a search was consentual, but there is no recording.

Following a wake of public outrage following the decision of the grand jury not to indict on the Garner choking injury, the New York City Police Department has announced that 22,000 police officers will undergo retraining on how to interact with the community. Apparently, police officials are beginning to recognize that overly aggressive police officers are instigating and escalating encounters which should not involve physical force. In the view of our New York City police brutality lawyers, it is probably too little, to late, but probably a step in the right direction. However, unless the police department begins to discipline officers who are overly aggressive,
the problem will probably continue. Until some teeth are put in place to discipline officers who over step their bounds, in all likelihood the practice of turning a blind eye towards misconduct will continue since the failure to discipline officers is a tacit approval of their conduct.

 
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