Even if you didn’t break the law, interacting with police can be intimidating. You may feel like there’s a power imbalance, and you might not be sure what your rights are. Thousands of people deal with police each day in New York City, and a recently enacted law wants to make those interactions go more smoothly.
Creation of the Right to Know Act was in response to aggressive police tactics that courts found illegally discriminated against African-Americans and Latinos. The new law aims to make sure anyone stopped by police is aware of their rights.
What is the Right to Know Act?
Passed in December 2017, but not enacted until October 19, 2018, New York City’s Right to Know Act has two components.
The first component requires police officers to identify themselves and provide their name, rank, command and shield number before certain interactions. They also must carry business cards with this information to give to civilians. If the officer is wearing a body camera during the interaction, they must provide you with information on how to obtain the footage.
The second part of the law involves searches of persons, property, vehicles, homes and offices. If there is not probable cause for a search, a police officer must give you information about the search and explain your legal right to refuse it.
How have interactions changed?
Your rights during a police encounter have not fundamentally changed, but the police officer must be more transparent.
At the end of many encounters, especially those involving a search, an officer must give you a business card and tell you the reason you for the stop. They must also tell you if you can decline the search. Officers still do not need permission to frisk you if they have reasonable suspicion you have a weapon.
It is important to remember that you have the right to remain silent during a police stop. Also, if you do consent to a search and change your mind, you can withdraw that consent at any time. In New York there is no requirement to carry identification, and you don’t have to show a police officer an ID unless placed under arrest.
What if my rights are violated?
If you believe you had an encounter with a police officer that violated your civil rights, it’s important to act. You can request records of the interaction and body camera footage online.
You may consider hiring an attorney with knowledge of civil rights proceedings to act on your behalf. Police misconduct does not have to be tolerated, and help is available.