Debate over change to police records law continues in NYS

NY Capitol News

ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — As protesters continue to mourn the killing of George Floyd, New York State lawmakers are working on legislation that would make police disciplinary records more accessible to the public. 

Governor Andrew Cuomo has said that he would sign any bill the legislature passes on 50-A, whether it be repeal or reform. The law currently shields police personnel records.

Earlier in the week, the Governor also said he didn’t believe that 50-A blocked local governments from releasing disciplinary records, but a spokesperson for the New York Civil Liberties Union said it’s time for a repeal.

“In December of 2018, the NYS Court of Appeals held that 50-A is a categorical bar to the disclosure of officer disciplinary records. So even if a police department wants to release records to the public they’re prohibited from doing so until the state legislature takes action,” said NYCLU Lead Policy Counsel Michael Sisitzky.

Assemblymember Pat Fahy is co-sponsoring legislation for repeal.

“The use of 50-A has been a shield to limit transparency in recognizing and knowing what the history is or what the insight is,” she said.

However, there’s been opposition to changes. Over the weekend, NYC Police Benevolent Association President Patrick Lynch said in a statement, “… we saw violent criminals targeting New York City police officers with bricks, brass knuckles and Molotov cocktails, for no reason other than the uniform we wear. It is inconceivable that Governor Cuomo would want to arm those extremists with confidential police personnel records, so that they bring their weapons to our front doors.”

Assemblymember Fahy says just repealing 50-A “isn’t enough” as far as reforms go. She also mentioned the need for expanded use of cameras.

The legislature is expected to be back in session next week.

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