FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: February 23, 2021
CONTACT: Peter Giunta, 347.621.8031
Assemblymember Michael Reilly (R-South Shore) announced today that he has introduced legislation to prohibit municipalities throughout the state – including the City of New York – from transferring primary investigating authority of vehicle collisions that result in serious injury or death to a non-law enforcement agency. This legislation comes amid a proposal from the New York City Council which would transfer primary investigating authority from the New York City Police Department (NYPD), the city’s lead law enforcement agency, to the New York City Department of Transportation (NYC DOT), a non-law enforcement agency that is responsible for maintaining the city’s transportation infrastructure, including its streets, bridges, and traffic signals.
The City Council’s legislation would eliminate a need for the NYPD’s Collision Investigation Squad (CIS) as those responsibilities are handled by a new unit within the NYC DOT called the Crash Investigation and Analysis Unit (CIAU). It is unclear how the civilian-led CIAU would coordinate with the NYPD to investigate traffic collisions, especially those that are criminal in nature. The bill will be the topic of discussion at the next meeting of the Council’s Transportation Committee, scheduled for Thursday, February 25, 2021, where it will likely be voted out of committee for consideration by the entire City Council sometime later that day.
Reilly’s legislation, which is still pending a bill number but can be viewed online, would amend Subdivision 1 of Section 603-a of the state’s vehicle and traffic law so that no municipality would be permitted to transfer the primary investigating authority of traffic collisions involving serious injury or death to a non-law enforcement agency.
“Unfortunately the City Council’s legislation to restrict the New York City Police Department’s involvement in crash investigations, some of which are even criminal in nature, stems from a misguided anti-police agenda,” said Reilly, who is a former NYPD Lieutenant. “If this had anything to do with making our streets safer, be it for pedestrians, bicyclists, or motorists, then this negligent proposal wouldn’t even be a thought.”
Reilly continued, “My legislation would ensure that the New York City Police Department and law enforcement agencies like it – which are trained extensively to respond to and investigate traffic collisions, much like any other crime scene – maintain operational control when investigating traffic collisions. The Department of Transportation simply isn’t prepared to handle such responsibility. They lack the training, they lack the funding, and they lack the capability – that’s the bottom line.”
According to a report in the New York Times, 2020 was one of the deadliest years on record since the launch of the city’s Vision Zero traffic safety initiative in 2014, with 244 deaths on record. In an op-ed published in the New York Daily News earlier this month, Staten Island District Attorney Michael McMahon said that CIS officers responded to nine crash scenes on Staten Island in 2020, which resulted in the District Attorney’s office eventually bringing criminal charges.
If passed and signed into law, Reilly’s bill would take effect immediately.