New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo vowed that his state will “pass the most aggressive” policing reforms in the country in the wake of the death of Minneapolis man George Floyd, who died in police custody last month.
During a Tuesday press conference, Cuomo addressed the unrest across the country over Floyd’s death.
“We’re dealing with two separate situations. The coronavirus, and the civil unrest after Mr. Floyd’s murder,” Cuomo said. “They are separate. They have to be dealt with separately. But there is obviously also an intersection between the two.”
Cuomo noted that the protests “cause a complication" in dealing with COVID-19 in the state, and called it a “complex situation,” but noted that New York “must respond” and “must act.”
“It’s time for New York to be the place that leads,” Cuomo said Tuesday. “That’s New York State’s legacy. This is the progressive capital of the nation.”
He added: “We’re going to pass the most aggressive reforms in the country, the transparency of disciplinary records, banning chokeholds, giving the attorney general authority as a special prosecutor, punishing false race-based 911 calls.
“These are the issues that we have been talking about for a long time,” Cuomo said, adding that “the time has come for dramatic action.”
Cuomo noted that bills are being passed in the New York legislature this week, and vowed to sign them into law “hopefully this week.”
“We’re making progress. We’re making progress quickly,” he said. “People see action, and that’s what they’ve come to expect from the state of New York. And that’s what they get. Results.”
Cuomo went on to say that now is “not just a moment to express outrage,” but “a moment to do something about it and make real reform and real change.”
“Let’s get it done here in the state of New York. When we talk about a justice agenda, we want to fight the system—racism, inequality, and injustice in our society. That’s what the protesters are saying,” Cuomo said. “And I stand with the protesters in saying, because it’s very true.”
Cuomo described injustice and inequality, pointing to the education system, and not educating all children the same, noting that a wealthy school district in New York gets $36,000 per year per student and $13,000 per year per student in a poorer school district.
Cuomo also pointed to criminal justice reform, asking “Why do we have the racial disparity in our criminal justice system?
“Attack fully or you will never defeat it. That’s the justice agenda,” Cuomo said. “And this has to be done on a federal level and it should be done on a federal level because it’s not a New York issue or California issue or Florida issue. It’s an American issue.”
Cuomo’s comments come amid protests across the nation in response to Floyd’s death last month. Some of the protests, dedicated to police brutality, shifted to a movement to “defund the police.”
What defunding the police looks like is different in various localities. In Minneapolis, the supermajority of the City Council seemingly supports a complete structural dismantling of the department. In other places, departments would remain in place but get fewer government resources, with some of their funding directed toward social justice programs.
In New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio also announced over the weekend that he will be diverting funding for the New York Police Department toward social services.
“The details will be worked out in the budget process in the weeks ahead. But, I want people to understand that we are committed to shifting resources to ensure that the focus is on our young people,” de Blasio said.
And in Los Angeles, Mayor Eric Garcetti plans to make cuts up to $150 million to the city’s police department and redistribute the money to “black communities and communities of color.”
Many top Democrats have been reluctant to speak out on the sudden momentum behind the movement.
Cuomo, over the weekend though, appeared to distance himself from the movement, citing protests that turned violent in New York City last week.
“You have New York City, that is still reeling from the COVID virus, and now you have this night of looting, that I’m telling you shook people in the city to the core,” Cuomo said Sunday. “You don’t need police? You don’t need police?”
“That’s what happens when you don’t have effective policing,” he added.