Nassau County lawmakers voted Monday night after a noisy eight-hour public session to pass a bill to cover first aiders under the county’s human rights law.
The vote for the passage was 12: 6.
Opponents complained that the measure would put police and other first responders on an equal footing with groups such as racial minorities and those who are discriminated against because of their religion or sexual orientation.
Police union officials supported the law, saying its members are being “targeted” for wearing uniforms.
The legislation would make first responders a “protected class” under the county’s human rights law, which prohibits discrimination based on factors such as race, disability, gender and sexual orientation.
The bill would also allow the district attorney to file lawsuits on behalf of first responders seeking financial compensation against demonstrators for “discrimination”.
No other professions are protected by human rights law.
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The bill was sponsored by the Nassau County Legis. Josh Lafazan of Syosset, an independent working with the Democrats.
More than 200 people, including civil rights activists, civil rights activists and members of law enforcement unions, filled the legislative chambers in Mineola for the 1pm meeting.
Some opponents shouted at the district MPs from the lectern or approached the podium on which the legislators were sitting.
“We are not anti-police. But what we are is an anti-police state. This is not an exaggeration. That’s what this bill does, ”said Emily Kaufman of Long Island Police Reform.
James McDermott, president of the Nassau Police Benevolent Association, said its members “applaud Nassau County’s lawmakers who continue to advocate law and order and support our police force at this unprecedented time.”
At around 5:20 p.m., the opponents began to sing “Draw the bill”.
Chairman Legis. Richard Nicolello (R-New Hyde Park) may refuse to put bills to a vote or put them before legislative processes.
The law would be seen as retaliation after thousands of protests against Black Lives Matter that exacerbate racial segregation in the county and thwart freedom of expression, opponents said.
Many said there was a lack of data to demonstrate violence or harassment against police or other first responders.
“The police are not discriminated against. It is black. It is brown. It is gays. They are disabled. It’s women, ”said Fred Brewington, a Garden City civil rights attorney.
NAACP Long Island regional director Tracey Edwards said Lafazan supported the Black Lives Matter movement following the murder of George Floyd by a white police officer in Minneapolis.
Edwards accused Lafazan of joining law enforcement unions on political grounds when he ran for re-election in November.
“Chairman Officer, please don’t let this become Nassau’s legacy … just because he was [Lafazan] got lost. He forever lost the respect of our communities, “Edwards told Nicolello.
Lafazan did not respond directly to Edwards’ comments.
Superior Officers’ Association President Rick Frassetti said police officers and first responders are “targeted” for wearing uniform.
“One of the most important functions of government is to protect its citizens and we are your citizens,” said Frassetti. said. “We shouldn’t be discriminated against. We’re being targeted because of our profession.”
Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder, who did not speak at the meeting, said in a statement: “Protecting our first responders, residents and communities must always be a priority. The legislature will have the opportunity to discuss and evaluate this draft law “and we look forward to its decision.”
The number of violent incidents or harassment filed by Nassau County police officers was not available on Monday.
District chairwoman Laura Curran, a Democrat seeking re-election, did not speak out immediately. A spokeswoman said she would comment on it after the legislature voted.
Candice Ferrette reports on the government and politics of Nassau County, Long Island. She has been a reporter at Newsday since 2011.