New York Repeals Controversial Law That Kept Police Disciplinary Records Secret
In the wake of George Floyd’s death and the national outcry, New York has repealed a law that shielded police disciplinary records from the public.
Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the bill today, June 12, which thereby repeals ’50-A of New York’s Civil Rights Law’ as a means to withhold official police complaints. ‘Enough is enough,’ he said before enacting the law.
It comes as calls for seismic changes to policing grow in numbers and scale following Floyd’s death; former Minneapolis officer Derek Chauvin, charged with second degree murder and manslaughter, had more than a dozen misconduct complaints prior to the incident that weren’t known to the public.
Now, anyone will be able to see such records – apart from information that has been redacted – via Freedom of Information requests, as is the case with the majority of public agencies. Previously, they were considered ‘confidential and not subject to inspection or review without the express written consent’ of a relevant official.
As per BuzzFeed News, Cuomo said prior to signing the bill:
Police reform is long overdue, and Mr. Floyd’s murder is just the most recent murder. It’s about being here before, many, many times. It’s about a long list that’s been all across this country that always makes the same point: injustice against minorities in America by the criminal justice system.
Efforts to repeal 50-A ramped up back in 2014 following the death of Eric Garner. Daniel Pantaleo, who placed him in a chokehold during the arrest, had eight previous misconduct complaints. Just last year, Eric’s mother Gwen Carr said the law was ‘harming me and my family’.
Before the bill passed the state Senate by a vote of 40-22, its sponsor Senator Jamaal Bailey said:
The silver lining on this incredibly dark cloud is that the sun is finally starting to shine on injustice. Maybe it’s the unmistakable, and in my opinion disputable, video evidence that we saw a live murder on TV, but it’s done something to the consciousness of America.
I don’t know if there could be a more meaningful piece of legislation for me and this body because it’s way more than just policy.
It’s an example of solid reform amid widespread calls for drastic change. In Minneapolis, a veto-proof majority of city council members officially announced their commitment to disband the current police department and ‘create a new transformative model of public safety’.
There’s been some resistance from the police union, however. Patrick Lynch, head of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association in New York City, said as per Yahoo! News: ‘The unfettered release of police personnel records will allow unstable people to target police officers and our families for harassment or worse.’
However, repealing 50-A is just the beginning of a larger set of reforms. Lawmakers are currently deliberating the ‘Eric Garner Act’, which would make chokeholds a felony, as well as the inception of a Office of Special Investigation to specifically investigate deaths at the hands of police officers.
If you have been affected by any of the issues in this article and wish to speak to someone in confidence, contact Stop Hate UK by visiting their website www.stophateuk.org/talk
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