Jamaican-born Democratic Assemblyman Nick Perry on Friday joined New York Attorney General Letitia James in announcing the introduction of the Police Accountability Act.
Nick Perry, who represents the largely Caribbean 58th Assembly District in Brooklyn, told Caribbean Life that he will sponsor the legislation in the New York State Assembly.
“The legislation will change state laws governing police use of force to strengthen prosecutors’ ability to hold police officers accountable for unjustified and excessive use of force,” Perry said. “The bill seeks to amend the use of force law to make it an absolute last resort, mandating that police officers only use force after all other alternatives have been exhausted.
“The act also will establish new criminal penalties for police officers who employ force that is grossly in excess of what is warranted in an interaction with civilians,” he added. “These significant changes to how we police in New York are long overdue, and I’m so excited to join in this effort with our trailblazing Attorney General ‘Tish’ (Letitia) James to make sure this becomes the new standard by which police will use when faced with the decision of whether or not to use deadly force.”
Perry said he felt compelled to act, “as sadly, Black Americans are three times more likely to die at the hands of police.
“So, based on these statistics, New Yorkers who look like me, who could be my son, my daughter, my wife, live in a time where just the color of their skin could be a death sentence,” he said. “This must change.”
Perry said that New York State Democratic Senator Kevin Parker, who represents the 21st Senate District in Brooklyn, will sponsor the legislation in the State Senate.
James said the Police Accountability Act — the most far-reaching use of force reform in the United States — seeks to amend New York’s law that justifies police use of force, which currently sets an exceedingly high standard for prosecuting police officers who have improperly used deadly or excessive force.
She said that the centerpiece of the legislation seeks to amend the use of force law from one of simple necessity to one of absolute last resort, mandating that police officers only use force after all other alternatives have been exhausted.
James said the legislation will also establish new criminal penalties for police officers who employ force that is “grossly in excess of what is warranted in an interaction with civilians.”
“For far too long, police officers in this country have been able to evade accountability for the unjustified use of excessive and lethal force,” James said. “In New York, our laws have essentially given police blanket defense to use force in interactions with the public, making it exceedingly difficult for prosecutors to go after officers who have abused this power. Not only is that gravely unjust, but it has also proven to be incredibly dangerous.
“The Police Accountability Act will make critical and necessary changes to the law, providing clear and legitimate standards for when the use of force is acceptable and enacting real consequences for when an officer crosses that line,” she added.
But the New York Attorney General said while the proposed legislation is “an important step in addressing the shortfalls of our criminal justice system, it is not a cure all for the ills that have impacted too many families and claimed too many lives.
“We must continue to do everything in our power to protect our communities and ensure that no one is beyond the reach of justice,” she said.