Smith Task Force holds final hearing

The fifth and final Tri-level Task Force hearing on police reform convened on Sunday, November 25 - the one-year anniversary of Sean Bell’s death.
Created by State Senate Minority Leader Malcolm Smith following the fatal police-involved shooting, the series of hearings were hosted throughout the five boroughs, with testimony from more than 100 individuals. Testimony was taken from experts on police procedures, civil rights advocates, and victims - among them Nicole Paultre Bell, widow of Sean Bell, and Joseph Guzman and Trent Benefield, friends of Bell who were at his bachelor party and survived the barrage of 50 bullets.
According to Smith, the purpose of the hearings is to make recommendations for possible legislative action at multiple levels of government.
“Our hope is to offer guidelines that help prevent incidents like this from ever occurring again, while guaranteeing a swift and appropriate response in the event that the system were to fail us again,” said Smith.
He continued, “We must do all we can to regain the public’s trust and confidence in its police force by providing answers for what exactly went wrong that tragic night in November. I am confident our series of hearings will help us come up with proposals on how to improve police procedures to avert tragedies like the Bell tragedy and too many others.”
In his testimony, Guzman called for a law in Bell’s name.
“We need a Sean Bell law; it’s not a want, it’s a need,” Guzman told the panel, according to published reports. “We can’t keep going through this. We can’t keep letting this happen.”
The Task Force includes Congressmembers Charles Rangel and Gregory Meeks; City Council Speaker Christine Quinn; Comptroller Bill Thompson; Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum; Senators Shirley Huntley and Eric Adams; Assemblymembers Vivian Cook and Ruben Diaz, Jr.
Smith said it would issue its recommendations to Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the New York Police Department in approximately a month.

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