New York passes bill allowing police disciplinary records to be made public

A law that blocked full transparency by the police department has now been repealed

A NYPD officer prepares to arrest protesters for breaking the citywide 8:00PM curfew on June 4, 2020 in the Bronx borough of New York City. (Photo by David Dee Delgado/Getty Images)

As activists across the country continue to demand accountability for police brutality, this week, New York lawmakers passed a bill that will ensure that all disciplinary records for police officers will now be made available to the public.

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According to the Huffington Post, for decades activists have taken issue with statute 50-A, which allowed police to withhold records of misconduct and disciplinary actions from the general public.

But Tuesday, the Democratic-led state legislature repealed 50-A, which previously made personnel records of police officers, firefighters and corrections officers “confidential” and only able to be seen when mandated by court order.

The new bill, sparked by demonstrators marching in the wake of George Floyd’s death, will now allow a level of transparency that hasn’t been available for generations. Now, any law enforcement disciplinary records can be made available simply by filing a Freedom of Information law request.

“This is a historic win for New York and a long-overdue change to the most restrictive police secrecy law in the country,” New York Civil Liberties Union Executive Director Donna Lieberman said in a statement, calling the repeal “a critical step toward justice for New Yorkers, especially Black and Brown New Yorkers who have historically been the main targets of police abuse.”

In recent history, New York’s 50-A statute came under fire following the high profile police killing of Eric Garner in 2014, who plead “I can’t breathe” as officer Daniel Pantaleo held him in a fatal chokehold. At the time, local advocates were legally blocked from looking over Pantaleo’s disciplinary history.

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But in the wake of George Floyd, the state has made it clear that statute 50-A has done more harm than good, and Monday, Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo confirmed that he intends to sign the repeal of the law.

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