Mike Scala with Senator James Sanders Jr. and Dr. Arnita Fowler at the Legislative Office Building in Albany.
Governor Andrew Cuomo signed into New York state law on Friday legislation containing language drafted by Mike Scala requiring police to file reports of missing adults. Until now, state law has only required reports of missing children and vulnerable adults, such as those with cognitive impairments and brain disorders.
“Families across the state can now be assured authorities will respond when loved ones disappear,” Scala said.
The new law, Chapter 316 of 2016, will mandate reports to be submitted to the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) database when the missing adult has a proven disability, may be in physical danger, is missing after a catastrophe, may have disappeared involuntarily or is missing under circumstances where there is a reasonable concern for his or her safety.
It was sponsored by Senator James Sanders Jr. (D-Queens) and Assembly Member Charles Barron (D-Brooklyn). Its main advocate was Dr. Arnita Fowler, whose 19-year old son LaMont Dottin went missing from St. Albans, Queens on October 19, 1995, and was found dead and buried in a potter’s field five years later. The act will be known as LaMont Dottin’s Law.
A previous version passed the state legislature in 2015, when it was vetoed by Cuomo due to concerns reports would be required even when not permitted by the NCIC database. Instead of seeking a change in federal law, as proposed by Cuomo at the time, Scala pitched rewriting the legislation to mirror the parameters of the database.
The updated bill was reintroduced earlier this year. It made its way through committee and eventually to the floors of both houses, passing the Senate (S6437A) by a vote of 61-0 and the Assembly (A9957) by a vote of 130-12.
Influential figures like New York City Public Advocate Letitia James offered their support.
“It is my belief that the bill’s sponsors have thoroughly addressed the questions you raised in your veto memo,” wrote James in a letter to Cuomo. “I hope that, after due deliberation, you will sign this bill into law and, in so doing, give thousands of families across this state a better chance at peace.”
Having received Cuomo’s signature, the legislation will take effect in two months as Section 837-F-2 of the Executive Law.