Federal court clears way for New York City to to release thousands of police disciplinary records

Federal court clears way for New York City to to release thousands of police disciplinary records

A Tuesday court ruling could lead to the public release of hundreds of New York police officers’ disciplinary records after a protracted legal battle.

The three-judge appeals court panel upheld a lower court’s ruling Tuesday while acknowledging the concerns of unions who said the release could compromise officers’ safety, according to The New York Times.

“We fully and unequivocally respect the dangers and risks police officers face every day,” the panel said in its ruling, according to the Times. “But we cannot say that the District Court abused its discretion when it determined that the unions have not sufficiently demonstrated that those dangers and risks are likely to increase because of the city’s planned disclosures.”


A provision of the state civil rights law known as 50-a had long shielded the public disclosure of officers’ disciplinary records. However, state lawmakers repealed the statute in June after the death of George Floyd prompted heightened scrutiny of police procedures and training.

The court also disagreed with the argument that allowing such disclosures could lead to their employment prospects being tarnished based on allegations that eventually prove to be untrue. The court pointed to other states that already make such records publicly available, where they said “the unions have pointed to no evidence from any jurisdiction that the availability of such records resulted in harm to employment opportunities.”

Mayor Bill de BlasioBill de BlasioHochul raises .6 million since launching gubernatorial campaign De Blasio says he won't run for New York governor Watershed moment in NYC: New law allows noncitizens to vote MORE (D) praised the ruling, saying “we look forward to releasing this data” but that the city would consult with the court to determine a timeline for releasing it.

“For the past seven years, we’ve fundamentally changed how we police our city, strengthening the bonds between communities and the officers who serve them,” he said in a statement on Tuesday. “Now, we can go even further to restore accountability and trust to the disciplinary process. Good riddance to 50-a.”

However, the de Blasio administration has itself been criticized for invoking 50-a in connection with the records of Daniel Pantaleo, who used a fatal chokehold on Eric Garner in Staten Island in 2014, according to the Times.