By ANDREW MALEKOFF
Dear County Executive Curran,
I call on you to reject the First Responders bill, despite its 12-6 passage by the Nassau County Legislature.
If you will indulge me for a few moments, I ask you to suspend disbelief and imagine that you have already signed this bill into law and, God forbid, an incident identical to the George Floyd murder then occurs in Nassau County.
Imagine that the players are all the same, except for the fact that they reside in and patrol the streets of Nassau County rather than Minneapolis, Minn.
Would the NCPD initiate civil litigation against 33-year-old Donald Williams for menacing?
Williams, a security guard and martial artist, called the police and told them that he was witnessing a murder by police. He identified a police officer using a “blood choke” to cut off George Floyd’s airway. He said he watched Mr. Floyd’s life “fade away, like a fish in a bag.”
He was heard in the video of Floyd’s arrest calling the officers “punks” and “murderers.” Would they charge Mr. Williams with menacing? They could under the First Responders bill.
Would the NCPD initiate civil litigation against 61-year-old Charles McMillian for harassment?
McMillian was the first witness on the scene after police struggled to get Mr. Floyd into their squad car. McMillian, initially encouraged Floyd to cooperate. He later confronted Officer Derek Chauvin after Floyd was taken away in an ambulance, telling him: “Today I gotta look at you as a maggot.”
Would Officer Chauvin or his fellow officers charge Mr. McMillian with harassment? They could under the First Responders bill.
Would the NCPD initiate civil litigation against 27-year-old Genevieve Hansen for harassment?
Hansen, an EMT, said, “I was concerned to see a handcuffed man who was not moving with officers with their whole body weight on his back . . .”
She pleaded, repeatedly, with the police to let her help Mr. Floyd, who was pinned to the ground with a knee on his neck. Her offer was rejected. Would Ms. Hansen be charged with harassment for her repeated overtures? She could under the First Responders bill.
Would the NCPD initiate civil litigation against 17-year-old Darnella Frazier for harassment? Ms. Frazier who filmed the murder on her cell phone said, “It’s been nights I stay up apologizing and apologizing to George Floyd for not doing more and not physically interacting and not saving his life.”
Would the offending police officers, in an effort to deter anyone from filming in the future, charge Ms. Frazier for harassment? They could under the First Responders bill.
The First Responders bill could be used as a sword to deter peaceful dissent and repress First Amendment rights of civilians, even in situations where they bear witness and assertively object to excessive force.
Under the First Responders bill, the NCPD could take steps to litigate against civilians even when it is not warranted, as a pretext for intimidating the broader public into silence when outrage is justified.
If you sign this into law, Ms. Curran, you will be complicit in placing a perpetual veil of threat over every civilian interaction with the police in Nassau County.
This law, if passed, will further empower police and decrease accountability even beyond your recent rejection of the creation of a civilian complaint review board. Police officers are already protected under New York State Penal Law and under Nassau County Administrative Law.
Passage of this law will be a giant shameful leap backward for Nassau County that will discourage righteous civilian dissent and will embolden any police officer who is inclined to abuse the considerable power already at their disposal.
Do the right thing and don’t lift your pen to sign this bill into law.