With protests over the murder of George Floyd continuing this week, many major cities across the state have imposed curfews. But do cities have the legal right to enforce a curfew?
According to the President of the New York State Bar Association, in special circumstances, they do.
“There would have to be some measure of justification,” Scott Karson, President of the New York State Bar Association explained. “And I suppose under the current circumstances with the level of civil unrest that New York City and other cities have been experiencing, that would be sufficient cause.”
However, Alice Green Executive Director of the Center for Law and Justice, says that police departments should be careful not to exacerbate the issue people are protesting and watch how they are enforcing the curfew.
“Especially if the jurisdiction tries to use more aggressive tactics to enforce the curfew,” Green explained. “So if you have a community that doesn’t trust law enforcement and you’re trying to enforce a curfew, I think it adds to that distrust.”
While essential workers are allowed to go out in many of these cities after curfew, Green says it opens the door for anyone, especially minorities, to be unfairly detained and searched.
“A study looks at this and found that black kids are almost three times as likely to be stopped by police officers who are trying to enforce curfews,” Green said. “So you got to know the community very well.”
Green’s suggestion to police departments is that they should work with their communities to make sure people can still safely get to where they need to go, even during a curfew.