Civil rights, good government and community groups call on Governor Cuomo to promote police transparency and accountability through full repeal of police secrecy law 50-a
In a letter to Governor Cuomo, sixty-four civil rights, good government and community organizations from across the state of New York are calling for a full, statewide repeal of New York’s Section 50-a, a counterproductive provision in state law that protects police secrecy, including in cases of misconduct and abuse. A full repeal of 50-a will increase the transparency of police misconduct and allow communities timely access to important misconduct and discipline records across the state.
In the letter, which calls on Governor Cuomo to announce support of a full statewide repeal of 50-a in his State of the State address, groups reject calls for a partial repeal or modification and reference instances of police brutality in which 50-a blocked access to important information from the public and families of victims.
New York is one of only two states with a law that specifically restricts public access to information on police officers’ misconduct and discipline records. New York’s 50-a is arguably the country’s most secretive law on police misconduct, declaring all police “personnel records” confidential – and providing specific exemptions for police, corrections and fire to FOIL/FOIA requests, despite robust privacy protections that have been built into the state’s existing FOIA law.
There are 27 states that grant some level of access to police personnel records, including 12 states that make disciplinary records available to the public as a matter of course. These include states like Ohio, Connecticut, Florida, Utah, Wisconsin, Georgia, Alabama, Arizona, Michigan, and Washington. The NYC Bar Association noted in April 2018 that “As the only one of its kind in the nation, 50-a has been interpreted so broadly that police misconduct in New York State is more secretive than any other state in the nation.”
New York police have used 50-a to shield abusive officers and departments from public scrutiny by hiding outcomes to disciplinary trials, names of officers involved in police misconduct, body camera footage, and even basic data on use of force incidents. In fact, the public only saw the judge's decision report in the trial of Daniel Pantaleo (the officer responsible for Eric Garner’s killing) because it was leaked to the press. According to the NYPD and Section 50-a,that decision and the accompanying report is considered confidential under 50-a.
About Communities United for Police Reform
Communities United for Police Reform (CPR) is an unprecedented campaign to end discriminatory policing practices in New York, and to build a lasting movement that promotes public safety and reduces reliance on policing. CPR runs coalitions of over 200 local, statewide and national organizations, bringing together a movement of community members, lawyers, researchers and activists to work for change. The partners in this campaign come from all 5 boroughs, from all walks of life and represent many of those most unfairly targeted by the NYPD.Topics: Repeal 50-A Safer NY Act