06/09/2008

Coalition seeks oversight in police shootings

Related stories: 3 NYPD detectives cleared in shooting, Hundreds arrested in Sean Bell protests

By Steve Ritea
Newsday

NEW YORK — A coalition of city, state and federal lawmakers probing police policies and procedures in the wake of the Sean Bell shooting yesterday recommended 15 pieces of legislation aimed at preventing a repeat episode.

Four of those bills have already passed the state Assembly, including one that would require officers to be tested for drugs and alcohol within three hours of firing their weapon.

"This report is a recognition of the need for change," said state Sen. Malcolm Smith (D-St. Albans), the minority leader, during a news conference outside City Hall.

Smith and others said one of the goals of their "tri-level legislative task force" was to prevent jurisdictional challenges between various levels of government. The 28-page report comes after hearings in all five boroughs of the city last year.

The Rev. Al Sharpton called it a "pro-police legislation package" that "will remove a cloud of suspicion from the police that do not engage in this conduct."

The package also includes:

A bill, currently pending in the state Senate, that would require police interrogations to be recorded.

Bills pending in both chambers in Albany that would expand the state attorney general's power to investigate and prosecute police misconduct.

City Council legislation that would require police to submit reports to them about all police shootings.

The End Racial Profiling Act of 2007, pending in the U.S. House, which would fund local departments' efforts to create new policies against racial profiling and require the U.S. attorney general to evaluate any ongoing discrimination.

NYPD Assistant Chief Michael Collins said the department did not receive the report but he noted that the NYPD is the only police department nationwide to mandate alcohol testing after shootings and its ratio of fatal police involved shooting per officer is lower than any major police department in the country.

Bell was killed and two of his friends were wounded in a hail of 50 bullets fired by three undercover officers on Nov. 25, 2006, after the trio had celebrated Bell's bachelor party at a Jamaica, Queens, nightclub.

On May 20, the New York Police Department filed disciplinary charges against seven officers in the Bell shooting, including the three detectives acquitted of criminal charges. The U.S. Justice Department is considering federal civil rights charges against the three.

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