Police records released and a new mayoral contender

Black Lives Matter protesters and NYPD officers have a confrontation near City Hall Park.
Black Lives Matter protesters and NYPD officers have a confrontation near City Hall Park.
Yuki Iwamura/AP/Shutterstock
Black Lives Matter protesters and NYPD officers have a confrontation near City Hall Park.

Police records released and a new mayoral contender

Rounding up the week’s political news
July 31, 2020

While many states may still be seeing the worst of the coronavirus pandemic, Gov. Andrew Cuomo likes to remind people that New York has made it over the mountain (after tens of thousands of deaths). Now, the governor wants New York’s low infection rate to benefit a nation desperate for entertainment. Cuomo has offered up the state to every or any Major League Baseball team looking for a temporary home this season due to the pandemic.

The Toronto Blue Jays have already taken up residence in Buffalo – without crowds, of course. We wouldn’t want a repeat of the Hamptons Chainsmokers concert that drew Cuomo’s ire and is being investigated for public health violations. Keep reading for the rest of this week’s news.

Police records released

The New York Civil Liberties Union won a victory when a judge lifted an order preventing it from publishing a large database of complaints of police misconduct. Earlier, ProPublica published data on about 4,000 New York City Police Department officers using information provided by the New York City Civilian Complaint Review Board. The NYCLU database is even more expansive.

The lawsuit stems from the recent repeal of a state statute known as Section 50-a, which has long kept police disciplinary records private. Police unions have been attempting to block the release of that information since the law was repealed. However, the state Committee on Open Government issued an opinion that unsubstantiated complaints could be kept private if releasing them would be a violation of privacy.

Revel shuts down

After two fatal accidents in as many weeks, scooter-sharing company Revel has suspended its operations in New York City. The deaths were among other nonfatal crashes in recent weeks that have called the safety of the mopeds into question. The unexpected announcement came just hours after the second death connected to Revel occurred in Queens.

A new mayoral contender

As a civil rights attorney, former head of the Civilian Complaint Review Board and former top counsel to New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, Maya Wiley appears poised to announce a run to succeed her former boss. She recently resigned as an MSNBC analyst and political commentator to explore a run for mayor. She also reportedly sent paperwork to the New York City Campaign Finance Board to open a committee called Maya for Mayor and is working with a veteran campaign consultant who used to work for the de Blasio administration.

Public charge rule halted

A federal judge in New York has ordered President Donald Trump’s administration to stop enforcing its public charge rule for the duration of the coronavirus pandemic. Under the mandate, people applying for green cards and visas were subject to wealth tests, allowing the federal government to reject the applications of those who receive government assistance, or may need to rely on it in the future. The rule had been in effect since February, when the U.S. Supreme Court overruled a lower court that had blocked its implementation. A group of Democratic states, led by New York, brought a new lawsuit in April in light of the pandemic. The judge sided with the states by ruling that the public charge rule would discourage immigrants from seeking government assistance during the pandemic.

Feds admit they lied on travel programs

After months of banning New Yorkers from the Trusted Traveler Program, which streamlines the security process at airports, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has restored residents’ access. At the same time, the department admitted to lying during a lawsuit brought by New York over the ban as a means to justify its action. The agency originally implemented the ban in response to New York’s Green Light law, which allows undocumented immigrants to receive driver’s licenses. The law prevented the state Department of Motor Vehicles from sharing information with federal immigration authorities, but the feds claimed the law was interfering with national security by not sharing information needed for background checks for the travel program. New York amended its law in April to allow federal agencies access to DMV data in order to verify entry into the travel program.

Arrest goes viral, causes uproar

The arrest of a protester in New York City went viral after video showed several plainclothes officers hustling a woman into an unmarked van before driving off. Many drew comparisons to the arrests of protesters in Portland, Oregon, that were made by unidentified federal law enforcement officers who used unmarked vehicles. In New York, the officers were members of the New York City Police Department warrant squad, who regularly work in civilian clothes and use unmarked cars. The protester was wanted for several instances of vandalism, including damaging police cameras. Although it was caught on video, the type of arrest causing the outrage is not uncommon in communities of color. De Blasio said he found the arrest “troubling,” but defended the conduct of the officers, saying it was simply “the wrong time and the wrong place” for the arrest to have happened. Gov. Andrew Cuomo called the arrest “frightening” and said he at first thought the federal government was responsible.

Rebecca C. Lewis
is a staff reporter at City & State.
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