State lawmakers vote to repeal law that keeps veil on police disciplinary records
The debate and focus over police brutality is shifting to Albany this week, as lawmakers are voting on a number of criminal justice reform bills.
The state law known as 50-A, which was passed in the 1970s, blocks the personnel records of police officers, correction officers and firefighters from being made public.
A repeal of the law passed the state Senate and Assembly Tuesday and is headed to Gov. Andrew Cuomo's desk, who is expected to sign the repeal.
The state law was passed to prevent criminal defense attorneys from subjecting officers to cross-examinations about irrelevant information in their personnel file.
Over the years, the law also held a veil over most records of alleged police misconduct. Formal complaints about excessive force by officers are not public in the state. Police departments have also cited the law in refusing to say even whether officers have been punished.
The law has had its critics over the years, but since the death of George Floyd, Democrats in control of the state Legislature are making an effort to repeal it.
Supporters say the public has a right to know about disciplinary actions that may have been taken against officers for misconduct. Opponents say repealing the law will pose a threat to officers.
"Even if my personal address is not in there, you could just figure out simply where my relatives live or other family members live — my children, my parents. That's a very dangerous situation," says Suffolk PBA President Noel DiGerolomo.
The legislation would provide officers with some privacy protections, including redaction of home addresses, personal phone numbers and email addresses.
Under the proposal, a person could get access to personnel records by filing a Freedom of Information Act request based on a complaint filed against an officer.
"Right now it is impossible for the public to know whether the police department is imposing meaningful discipline on officers who've been accused of misconduct," says state Sen. Kevin Thomas.
Daniel Lloyd, founder of Minority Millenials, says the protest he was part of in Amityville sought reforms like the repeal of 50-A.
"I think it was an incredible moment in history that yesterday while we're marching, elected officials are in Albany working on police reforms," says Lloyd.
Cuomo added that police are currently the only public employees whose personnel records are shielded from the public. New York's law is considered one of the most restrictive in the country.
Associated Press reports were used in this article.