A series of recent incidents in Brooklyn has some lawmakers from New York City worried that police are not impartially guarding polling locations – and bills intended to address the perceived problem are being developed at both the city and state level. 

On Election Day, an NYPD officer allegedly accused a poll worker of electioneering in front of voters and fellow poll workers at a poll site in Brownsville. Cops also threatened a Brooklyn resident with arrest for standing too close to a polling site in Bushwick, while he was wearing a Black Lives Matter T-shirt. 

And on the first day of early voting in Red Hook, Brooklyn cops seized personal protective equipment community activists were handing out to voters in front of a polling site. During early voting, an on-duty officer repeatedly declared “Trump 2020” on a loudspeaker in Flatbush, which prompted the NYPD to suspend the officer.

These controversial events come after the Police Benevolent Association, the largest union of NYPD officers, and the Sergeants Benevolent Association endorsed President Donald Trump for reelection, which some say emboldened officers to favor the Republicans during this year’s elections. 

Now, two New York City lawmakers told City & State they are exploring legislation that would rethink the NYPD’s role at poll sites during elections. “A polling site is very sensitive, when it comes to police activity, especially this election, when it was quite an awareness that a lot of police officers were supporting Donald Trump and opposed to Black Lives Matter and the politics of all of that,” said Democratic state Assembly Member Nick Perry, who represents part of Brownsville. Perry is now working on legislation that would require police officers to follow a specific code of conduct when they are providing security during elections and prohibiting them from intervening when it comes to matters concerning voting. 

City Council Member Carlos Menchaca – whose district includes Red Hook and who is running for mayor – told City & State he is also exploring legislation that would remove police officers from being stationed at polling sites during elections and instead have other officials oversee the sites. Menchaca, also a Democrat, suggested that peace officers, which are officials who provide security and are appointed by different city agencies, could be assigned to monitor polling stations instead of cops. 

Menchaca’s decision to work on the legislation comes after police officers confiscated masks being distributed by him and other community activists outside of the Joseph Miccio Community Center in Red Hook. “I think that because the NYPD, through the unions, have endorsed Trump … they’ve become a political entity, and I think it’s time for us to remove them from these polling sites,” Menchaca said.

State law bans electioneering within 100 feet of the entrance to a poll site. Under state law, during primaries, general, special, and school board elections, at least one police officer or peace officer is assigned by the local police department to each polling site from the opening until the closing of the polls. Other police officers or peace officers may also be assigned, as it is deemed appropriate by the police commissioner.

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