Hard to Believe but True

Legislator Steve Rhoads (R–Bellmore) speaks to a reporter before the Aug. 2 legislature meeting at which a controversial first responders bill was debated, with most speakers opposing it. (Photo by Frank Rizzo)

To the editor:

The late legendary broadcaster, activist and political commentator, Clayton Riley, would implore his listeners at the end of each of his commentaries to “keep a good thought and pay very special attention.” This was what scores of Nassau County residents apparently did when they packed the county legislature meeting room in Mineola on Monday, Aug. 2, to protest one of the most egregious bills in recent memory that was being voted on that day, and which was not in the best interest of black, brown and so-called minority people.

The bill, introduced by Legislator Joshua Lafazan, would designate police officers a “protected class” under the country’s human rights law and allow them to sue those who harass, menace, assault or injure them, to the tune of up to $50,000 per violation without [police] having to show proof.

Despite the efforts of speaker after speaker during the public comment section pointing out the subjective nature of the bill in granting more power to a group of individuals already armed with a gun, trained in the use of deadly force, and who have more legal protection than a civilian, the bill passed 12-6.

State Assemblyman Charles Lavine pleaded with the legislature to table the bill in order to allow for more robust public discussion and input, but this was to no avail. The call for tabling this proposal made sense since a wide cross section of people were unaware of its existence; I for one only learned about it the day before the vote, and the people I contacted were also unaware, yet we managed to rally a fair amount of people to show up at the hearing. It is clear that the intent was to go “under the radar” and keep as many people as possible in the dark so to speak.

Thanks to the efforts of Legislator Siela Bynoe (D–Westbury, District 2), who led the charge in opposing this bill from the get-go. This allowed for some degree of national attention in this matter, being reported by CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, 1010 WINS radio and just about all the local news outlets, sparking hope that it is not a done deal and that County Executive Laura Curran will do the right thing in not signing this bill into law.

—Chester McGibbon

Editor’s note: On Aug. 2, the Nassau County Legislature, by a 12-6 vote, passed Local Law 8-2019, which provides for enhanced civil penalties to be applied in incidents targeting first responders, including law enforcement. It will allow the county attorney to file lawsuits on behalf of first responders—most crucially, police—seeking financial damages against anyone they feel harasses or injures them in the course of their duties, including at protests. It was vetoed by Nassau County Executive Laura Curran. It is not known when the legislature will take a vote to try to override the veto. Ten of the 11 members of the Republican Majority who were present voted in favor of the bill, and were joined by Lafazan, an independent who generally causes with Democrats, and Delia DeRiggi-Whitton, a Glen Glove Democrat.

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Since 1907, The Westbury Times has faithfully served the areas of Westbury, Carle Place, Salisbury and Old Westbury as a source for local news and community events.

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