'Right to Know' act begins in New York City for NYPD

NEW YORK (WABC) -- NYPD officers are now required to share their full names and ranks with people who they stop on the street, due to a new law that took effect Friday.

Officers will hand out business cards as part of the "Right to Know" act.

The cards have information on the back about how to file a complaint against an officer and even obtain body camera video.

Officers must also inform people of their right to refuse some searches.

The City Council passed the law in January after four years of battling back and forth with the NYPD.

The police union says the law will discourage officers from addressing crime.

"As we've said from the beginning, the 'Right to Know' laws will discourage police officers from proactively addressing crime and disorder and will lead to more frivolous complaints," Patrolmen's Benevolent Association President Pat Lynch said. "The City Council has continuously piled on new burdens and second-guessing for our police officers, creating unnecessary distractions for them that will ultimately make NYC a more dangerous place."

Supporters say it's all about building trust and transparency.

"We have a lot of people that don't know their rights, and we have a lot of people that get stopped and they don't know what to say or what to do," an advocate said. "They get scared right away."

The PBA president says the law will also lead to frivolous complaints from the public.

"There's no group that's more compassionate than New York City police officers," Lynch said. "We don't need instructions on how to act like professionals. We do it each and every day. So handing a card out to a murderous thug on the street solves absolutely nothing. Allow us to do our job...The people that want and will use those cards are the ones that want to do harm to police officers. Sometimes that harm is not physical. Sometimes that's by holding up their career with false and fake accusations."

The NYPD issued the following statement:

"The NYPD will fully comply with the Right to Know Act when it takes effect this Friday. As the Department developed its policies, it heard numerous recommendations from the advocacy community through discussions with the Federal Monitor. The Department also provided advocates unprecedented access to NYPD policies, forms, and trainings prior to the law taking effect. And the NYPD will of course continue to talk to advocates to fine tune the policy as it is implemented and we can assess what's working and what might be improved."

The measures, born out of concern that controversy over stop-and-frisk practices had eroded trust in the department, require officers be trained to obtain voluntary, knowing and intelligent consent before conducting searches without a warrant or probable cause.

"Trust is perhaps the most critical component in the relationship between the police and the communities they are charged with protecting," said city council member Antonio Reynoso, who sponsored the legislation behind some of the new requirements.

The NYPD printed about 10 million business cards, developed new training on the Right to Know requirements, updated its patrol guide and created a quick-reference sheet for its 35,000 officers.

About 9 million of the business cards are personalized with officers' names, shield numbers and other required information, the department said. The other 1 million cards are blank templates that officers can fill out on the fly when they run out of their own.

Police watchdogs are wary and say they'll be monitoring compliance with the new measures, such as by videotaping officer interactions. They said any violations will be raised with the Civilian Complaint Review Board.

"The question remains whether the NYPD will commit to implementing this new law in good faith, especially in communities of color that still experience heavy police presence in their neighborhoods," said Michael Sisitzky, of the New York Civil Liberties Union.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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