Legislators to Introduce Myls' Law to Close Loophole in Child Safety Policy
MIDTOWN — They want to ensure he did not die in vain.
A pair of New York City lawmakers are set to introduce legislation in the wake of 4-year-old Myls Dobson's death last week — seeking to close a loophole in child safety law exposed through extensive reporting by DNAinfo New York.
The new “Myls’ Law,” sponsored by Bronx state Sen. Jose Serrano Jr., and Manhattan Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal, would amend New York's social service law to require police to notify child protective services when a primary caregiver or parent is arrested.
Serrano said Tuesday that the goal was to “add another layer of protection for these kids” in the wake of the details that led to Myls' horrific death.
“It's a very heartbreaking story. The more you read about it, the more difficult it is to wrap your head around it and make sense of it,” Serrano said of Myls' short life, which ended on Jan. 8, following what prosecutors say was three weeks of increasingly brutal abuse at the hands of his father's transgender lover.
“We want to prevent tragedies that we can see coming, as well as ones that come out of the blue," Serrano noted.
Rosenthal, reached by phone on her way back from session in Albany Tuesday, said the bill wasn't meant as a punative action against law enforcement officials or children's services.
"Everyone in law enforcement and in the courts, everyone followed the law," she said. "This isn't one of the things they were supposed to do."
Rosenthal said she and Serrano first learned about the loophole over the weekend after reading about it in a DNAinfo story.
"The careful ways DNAinfo reported the story prompted me to propose this bill," Rosenthal said.
Myls' case spurred outrage after DNAinfo reported that the boy fell through the cracks of the system over the course of three weeks before his death. Prosecutors say Kryzie King, 27, beat the boy with belts, burned him with cigarettes and hot oven grates, left him outside in freezing temperatures, and starved him until he lost 20 to 25 pounds.
King, who had begun dating Myls' father, Okee Wade, a month earlier, took the boy in on Dec. 18. The next day Wade was arrested in Brooklyn on a warrant for skipping a court hearing in New Jersey.
Wade told officers that Myls was in safe hands with King, sources said. Under the current law, the NYPD and other law enforcement agencies were not required to alert the Administration for Children's Services, because Wade said King had cared for the child before, and they had no reason to believe the child was in danger, sources said. No one reported the child in danger, and none of his relatives alerted ACS in a bid to discover his whereabouts, according to officials.
The new legislation would close this loophole by mandating that the NYPD find out the whereabouts of any children that are in the care of suspects they are arresting, and notify ACS within 24 hours. Child protective services would have 24 hours from being notified to investigate the children's new living arrangements and ensure they are safe.
At that point, ACS would open a case file on the children and continue to monitor them until their parents were released from jail and could resume custody, under the proposed bill.
The legislation comes in the midst of a weeklong investigation of Myls' death by Mayor Bill de Blasio.
De Blasio, who was a fierce critic of ACS when he was the city's public advocate, said on Monday that the boy’s death left him deeply troubled.
“To me, this was a tragedy, and the more I learn about it, the angrier I get because of the callousness of the alleged assailant and the horror this young boy went through,” he told reporters Monday, before the legislation was unveiled.
De Blasio has yet to weigh in on the loophole in existing law, saying the facts of the case are still under investigation.
“I am very anxiously looking forward to the results of our investigation at the end of the week, and then we'll decide what actions to take," he added. "We don't have all the facts here."
Serrano said he agreed that the results of the investigation would spur additional action — but said he didn't need to wait for the final results to know that there is a pressing problem right now.
“We're trying to close an obvious loophole that we don’t necessarily think we need a report to know it's there,” Serrano said. “We're thinking broadly, we're thinking beyond New York City. We're doing it statewide.”
Serrano said he wanted to introduce the bill quickly to hopefully avoid “all kinds of crazy gridlock” that could keep it from being passed soon.
A list of co-sponsors on the legislation is expected soon, he said.