New York legislature votes to release disciplinary records for officers

New York legislature votes to release disciplinary records for officers

New York lawmakers have passed a bill to repeal a 40-year-old law that seals police disciplinary records, a move intended to provide greater accountability for officers.

The regulation, colloquially known as 50-a after the section of the state civil rights law it comes from, has been under increased scrutiny amid protests over the killing of George Floyd, an unarmed black man who died in Minneapolis police custody.

Opponents note that if such a law had been in place in Minneapolis, there would be no public record of the misconduct complaints against Derek Chauvin, the officer charged with murder in Floyd's death.

ADVERTISEMENT

The New York State Assembly passed the measure 101-43 on Tuesday evening, hours after it passed the state Senate 40-22. Gov. Andrew CuomoAndrew CuomoCuomo calls on wealthy to return to New York City: 'You got to come back!' The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the Air Line Pilots Association - Key 48 hours loom as negotiators push for relief deal Cuomo to serve as National Association of Governors chair MORE (D) has said he will sign the measure. Assembly members observed a moment of silence for Floyd after passage.

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D) touted the measure as “historic legislation to improve transparency in our criminal justice system and improve police and community relations.”

ADVERTISEMENT

Former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro also hailed passage of the bill, tweeting, “Police are rarely held accountable for misconduct, and even when they are the public has limited knowledge. Repealing 50-a is a huge victory—and it’s owed to the protestors who took to the streets and refused to back down.”

“This is an enormous step forward for police accountability in New York State. At a time when New Yorkers have taken to the streets in the midst of a global pandemic to voice the need for police accountability and racial justice, this is a welcome development,” Rebecca Brown, policy director for the Innocence Project, said in a statement.

“It is our strong hope that now that the veil that had shielded police misconduct from public view has been lifted, countless injustices, including wrongful convictions, can be prevented,” she added. “This is only one ingredient of authentic accountability but it is the first, crucial step, in bringing some justice to a system that previously prevented it.”

Police unions, meanwhile, have vocally opposed repealing the law, with Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association President Patrick Lynch saying in 2019 that repeal efforts were “designed to once again demonize police officers, seemingly for political gain.”