Legal experts urge New Yorkers to know their rights as NYPD neighborhood safety teams roll out
NEW YORK -- The NYPD's new neighborhood safety teams are focusing on finding illegal guns.
As these officers hit the streets, there is a renewed push to make sure people know their rights if they're approached by police.
Unmarked cars with police lights and dozens of officers re-branded in less official-looking uniforms are being rolled out in select New York City areas with the highest crime rates.
CBS2's Dave Carlin went to a pair of experts about the recently announced neighborhood safety teams.
"It's about a form of deterrence, so if the bad guys are carrying guns believe that they could be stopped, they might stop carrying guns," retired NYPD sergeant Joseph Giacalone said.
Giacalone, an adjunct professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, says the new teams are necessary to prevent crime from getting worse.
Legal Aid Society attorney Jennvine Wong is not a fan of the push, which utilizes about 200 officers in 30 precincts. Each teams gets a sergeant and five officers.
"When there are so many variables in police encounters with civilians, we shouldn't be increasing unnecessary encounters between them, we should be decreasing them," Wong said.
What Wong and Giacalone agree on is what police officers can and cannot do.
Wong says civilians should memorize three things.
"Whenever we talk about know your rights there are a couple phrases that every person should know like the back of their hand, and one is, 'Am I free to leave?' 'Am I being arrested?' And 'I want to talk to my lawyer,'" she said.
She says you have the right to get video, photographs and sound, and an officer does not have the right to go into your phone without a warrant.
When an officer asks your name, you should give it to them, but you are not required to show ID. Officers must provide a name and badge number on a business card.
Legal experts say in these situations what you are saying to an officer should be kept simple and clear.
"We're not searching for drugs or any other contraband. It's really about a weapon that can harm the officer or anybody else around there," Giacalone said.
"The big question there is, 'Am I under arrest?' If it's no, you can walk away calmly. If the answer is yes from that officer, then regardless of whether you think the arrest is justified or not, it's really the safest thing to do is to submit to the arrest and fight it later," Wong said.
Both say putting safety first means staying calm with any civilian and any police officer.