GARNER'S LAW MEMO
In the wake of current Black Lives Matter protests and police brutality being put in the forefront again, it is important to acknowledge that these protests are most meaningful when they result in real change.
It is important to know that three bills have been introduced to help contribute to police reform. Two of the bills have been signed into law--Eric Garner’s Law and Stephon Clark’s law. One bill, the Andrew Kearse Act is still being discussed by the state assembly.
Eric Garner was a Black man who was put in a chokehold on camera by a police officer in New York for allegedly selling untaxed cigarettes. His death sparked massive Black Lives Matter protests and was the inspiration for the rally cry, “I can’t breathe,” which he struggled to say 11 times before his death. The bill makes it illegal for officers to use a chokehold, or a ‘similar restraint.’ This bill was passed into law on June 8, 2020 and now a police officer who kills or injures someone using, “a chokehold or similar restraint” a chokehold can be charged with a Class C Felony which can result in up to 15 years in prison. This law is effective immediately.
Stephon Clark was a Black man from Sacramento, California who was shot 20 times after two police officers came to investigate reports of cars being broken into. Stephon Clark’s Law is a law that, “redefines circumstances under which homicide by a peace officer is deemed justifiable,” by requiring law enforcement’s use of deadly force only when, “necessary” as opposed to, “reasonable.” Meaning deadly force should only be used in life/death situations instead of being up to the officers discretion. The law also prohibits officers from shooting fleeing felons who do not pose immediate danger. This law is effective as of January 1, 2020.
Andrew Kearse was a Black man from the Bronx who died in police custody after suffering a heart attack. He asked for medical help multiple times but his pleas were ignored. The Andrew Kearse Act would make it illegal for an officer to refuse medical treatment to someone who is in medical need. This act has not been signed into law and is currently in assembly committee, meaning that both the New York Senate will amend the bill, and then it will be voted on.
All of these laws started as bills, which are introduced by citizens to local congresspeople/legislatures. This means that voting is extremely important if an individual wants their voice heard. The process includes every aspect of government, from the legislature (if looking to pass a state law) to the Congress (if looking to pass federal law) to the governor/president. This means citizens must vote. All of the people who decide on the bills are voted into power by the citizens in elections, that is why it’s important to vote the right people in power, so then bills that enact justice are more likely to become laws.