Prompted by a diverse grassroots movement, much of the country continues to debate important proposed policing reforms at the local level. Many local policing campaigns that EFF supports focus on ending the era of law enforcement agencies acquiring surveillance equipment in secret. The latest campaign to prove successful secured a new law advancing transparency in New York City not only in policy, but also on the ground: the Right to Know Act.
Adopted in a two-part measure, the Right to Know Act responds to the experience of New Yorkers and visitors subjected to law enforcement stops, frisks, and searches of personal possessions including digital devices like cell phones and tablets. The City Council’s passage of the measures comes in spite of fear-mongering and falsehoods promoted by police unions.
One part of the reform, supported by EFF and a litany of groups in New York (including some in the Electronic Frontier Alliance), was sponsored by Council member Antonio Reynoso. It requires NYPD officers to inform subjects of proposed consent searches that they have the right to decline consent, and also requires officers to document objective proof of such consent (using a body camera, for instance) before proceeding with a search.
This measure sensibly advances notice of rights in a manner consistent with the historic Miranda ruling that, since 1966, has allowed arrestees to receive notice of their rights upon being arrested. The Right to Know Act essentially advances Miranda-esque warnings so that civilians are informed of their rights at the search stage, where NYPD activities have prompted widespread and longstanding claims of abuse.
Like the host of reforms adopted by Providence, RI last year, the Right to Know Act in New York City represents a model policy that other cities would do well to consider. Residents of other cities inspired by the success of activists on the ground in these cities can seek EFF’s help in replicating their success by joining the Electronic Frontier Alliance.