NEW YORK — Brooklyn Councilman Stephen Levin sponsored legislation that just made history, rolling back a longstanding legal protection for NYPD officers.
Levin said the bill was inspired by the protest movement of 2020.
“There has to be consequences for misconduct,” he told PIX11 News Friday. “I was really searching for legislation that we can pursue that would have a meaningful impact.”
The city now has limited qualified immunity for the NYPD. That’s the legal doctrine that shielded officers from civil lawsuits for violating the constitutional rights of people they arrested.
“That officer can walk into court and on the very first day, say ‘I’m not even supposed to be here because this plaintiff doesn’t even have the right to bring me to court, I’m immune,'” Levin explained.
Ending qualified immunity clears the way for New Yorkers to sue police officers for using excessive force or conducting illegal searches. Councilman Levin’s bill passed by the council had support within the mayor’s office.
However, Dr. Robert Gonzalez of St. John’s University believes police will see it differently.
“I think officers are shocked but I don’t believe they’re surprised and I say that because there have been a tremendous amount of reforms that have taken place,” he said.
Gonzalez spent 20 years in the NYPD, working his way up to assistant commissioner.
He thinks this might create tension among officers.
“They will be concerned about doing their job, especially those officers who are on the front lines, against things like guns and drugs which usually have the potential of violence, when you actually try to make that arrest.”