New York state senate passes bill to end sealing of police disciplinary records

New York state senate passes bill to end sealing of police disciplinary records
© Getty Images

New York’s state senate has passed a measure that would repeal a state law keeping police officers’ disciplinary records secret.

The measure passed 40-22 in the state Senate Tuesday, and is expected to pass the state assembly, which has long had a Democratic majority. Gov. Andrew CuomoAndrew CuomoDefending champion Rafael Nadal announces he won't play in US Open New York, New Jersey, Connecticut tweak quarantine list The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the Air Line Pilots Association - Progress slow on coronavirus bill MORE (D) has said he will sign a bill that makes it to his desk.

“This police secrecy statute has been a threat to our public safety for far too long. This repeal is a victory that advocates have been fighting for for years, & it’s a critical step in meaningfully changing policing in New York,” State Sen. Julia Salazar (D) said in a tweet Tuesday.


The 50-A law was first approved in the 1970s with the aim of preventing defense attorneys from introducing disciplinary incidents during cross-examinations of police, firefighters and correctional officers.

It has received increased scrutiny since the beginning of the Black Lives Matter movement, particularly when the NYPD invoked it to avoid disclosing the record of officer Daniel Pantaleo after he killed Eric Garner with a chokehold on Staten Island in 2014.


Now the law is getting attention because of George Floyd's killing by a police officer.

Opponents of the law argue that if it were a Minnesota law, it would have prevented people from learning that Derek Chauvin, the former officer charged with Floyd’s murder after he kneeled on his neck for more than eight minutes, was the subject of at least 17 misconduct complaints.

Mayor Bill de BlasioBill de BlasioNYC health commissioner quits over de Blasio's COVID-19 response Fear first, education last? MSNBC contributor Maya Wiley departs network to explore New York mayoral run MORE (D) called for the law’s repeal in 2016, while then-Commissioner James O’Neill said the same year that “making information about disciplinary proceedings public will help us build trust with the community.”

Police unions, however, have been longtime opponents of repealing the law, with Patrolman’s Benevolent Association President Patrick J. Lynch saying in 2019 that repeal efforts were “designed to once again demonize police officers, seemingly for political gain.”