No way 50-A! Activists call for repeal of law that hides police misbehavior

March 21, 2019
Trevor Boyer
New York Daily News
State Senator Jessica Ramos joined other elected officials and advocates at City Hall March 21 to call for the repeal of the state’s 50-a law, which shields police records from scrutiny. (Trevor Boyer/New York Daily News)

A group of lawmakers and activists on Thursday called for the end of a law that blocks public scrutiny of NYPD misdeeds.

Democratic state legislators and city council members joined activists from Make the Road New York and Moms Rising at City Hall to rally for the repeal of the state’s 50-a law, which prevents the release of disciplinary records of uniformed officers throughout the state.

“Communities have a right to know who is serving and protecting them,” said Council Member Donovan Richards (D-Queens). “You cannot have accountability without transparency.”

A resolution calling for the state legislature to repeal 50-a is currently before the City Council.

“Immediately, when there is a police-involved shooting, if not sooner, we start to learn about the person who was shot,” said Public Advocate Jumaane Williams. “We are almost never able to understand the history of that officer.”

The 50-a repeal bill is part of a package advocates are calling the Safer New York Act, which also includes a bill that establishes a framework for pot legalization and another that requires ZIP-code-level reporting on deaths from police interactions and the policing of minor offenses. One bill in the package bans arrests for offenses where one should only receive tickets.

State Sen. Jessica Ramos (D-Queens) said low-level arrests — the NYPD’s 'Broken Windows’ theory of policing — often land immigrants in ICE custody.

“Broken windows has broken up our families for far too long,” said Ramos.

Advocates said Mayor de Blasio and NYPD Police Commissioner James O’Neill have not gone far enough by calling to change transparency laws without fully repealing 50-a.

“Every concern that they have raised is something that has already been addressed,” said Michael Sisitzky, lead policy counsel with the New York Civil Liberties Union.

In February, a panel of two former prosecutors and a former judge tasked with reviewing the department’s disciplinary procedures said the state should amend the 50-a law to provide more openness — and that the NYPD should not interpret the existing law so narrowly.

With Thomas Tracy


Topics: Repeal 50-A Safer NY Act