On June 12, 2020, Governor Cuomo issued issued Executive Order 203 (EO 203) directing local police agencies, including the NYPD, to develop a reform plan to “eliminate racial inequities in policing, to modify and modernize policing strategies, policies, and procedures, and practices, and to develop practices to better address the particular needs of communities of color to promote public safety, improve community engagement and foster trust.” EO 203 mandates that local police agencies develop such reform plans, with community input, by April 1, 2021 in order to be eligible for state and federal funding (“Police Reform Plans”). The plan must meet the requirements set forth in EO 203 and the subsequent guidance provided by the Budget and Division of Criminal Justice Services.
In summary, the required process under EO 203 includes the following steps:
- Engage stakeholders in a public and open process on policing strategies and tools;
- Present a plan, by the chief executive and head of the local police force, to the public for comment;
- After consideration of any comments, present such plan to the local legislative body for approval (by either local law or resolution); and
- Contact the Director of the Division of the Budget to affirm the process and the plan.
Local governments must perform a comprehensive review of current police force deployments, strategies, policies, procedures, and practices, and develop a plan to improve such deployments, strategies, policies, procedures, and practices to address the particular needs of the community served by the police agency. The Police Reform Plan must reinvent and modernize police strategies and programs based on community input. Governor Cuomo hopes the process outlined in EO 203 will help rebuild confidence and restore trust between the 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.
The local government must consult with the local police agency, members of the community, interested non-profit and faith-based community groups, the local office of the district attorney, the local public defender, and local elected officials to develop the Police Reform Plan. Any public official may start the process and obtain citizen input, such as a village or city mayor, or a county legislature leader, council president or public safety chairman.
Develop a Police Reform Plan
Each police agency’s Police Reform Plan must address policies, procedures, practices and deployment, including, but not limited to use of force. Specifically, the Police Reform Plan must consider the following:
- Evidence-based policing strategies, including but not limited to, use of force policies, procedural justice;
- Any studies addressing systemic racial bias or racial justice in policing;
- Implicit bias awareness training;
- De-escalation training and practices;
- Law enforcement assisted diversion programs;
- Restorative justice practices;
- Community-based outreach and conflict resolution;
- Problem-oriented policing;
- Hot spots policing;
- Focused deterrence;
- Crime prevention through environmental design;
- Violence prevention and reduction interventions;
- Model policies and guidelines promulgated by the New York State Municipal Police Training Council; and
- Standards promulgated by the New York State Law Enforcement Accreditation Program.
Obtain Public Comment and Adopt the Police Reform Plan
After the public has had a chance to review and comment on the Police Reform Plan, the local legislative body must adopt the Police Reform Plan by local law or resolution, as appropriate, no later than April 1, 2021.
Affirm the Process and the Plan
Thereafter, the local government must contact the Director of the Division of the Budget to affirm that the process required under EO 203 has been complied with and confirm that the local government has approved a local law or resolution adopting the Police Reform Plan. If the local government fails to adopt a Police Reform Plan by April, 1, 2021, the local government will not be eligible for future appropriated state or federal funds.
Some communities may be happy with how their law enforcement agencies are currently functioning. Such local governments are still required to affirm to the State that community input was obtained and that the community supports the current procedures and policies utilized by the police agency.
Say Their Name Reform Agenda Package
In addition to EO 203, Governor Cuomo has laid out a series of reform policy items, referred to as the “Say Their Name” Reform agenda package. The Governor has taken steps to allow for transparency of prior disciplinary records of law enforcement officers by repealing 50-a of the Civil Rights Law, amending the Public Officers Law, banning chokeholds by law enforcement officers, prohibiting false race-based 911 reports and making them a crime, and designating the Attorney General as an independent prosecutor for matters relating to civilian deaths. Our office has prepared a Legal Alert on Governor Cuomo’s “Say Their Name” Reform Agenda Package, available on our website.
Consult Counsel Regarding Specific Questions
If you have any questions or concerns regarding Executive Order 203 or this legal alert or require further assistance with this topic, please feel free to contact Jaclyn Goldberg, Lance H. Klein, or Drew Victoria Gamils or any other attorney in our Labor Relations & Employment Law Practice.