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Police Accountability Advocates Applaud NYC Council Speaker Corey Johnson for Calling for Repeal of 50-a, New York’s Harmful Police Secrecy Law

New York –  Police accountability advocates and organizers today applauded New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson for calling for the repeal of 50-a, New York’s harmful police secrecy law. 50-a is a controversial and widely criticized state law that advocates and elected officials are seeking to repeal in the current legislative session. It has been used to block the release of crucial information about misconduct committed by police officers and what, if any, disciplinary consequences they have faced for their actions.

“In recent years, the NYPD and de Blasio administration have used 50-a to block the release of an ever-expanding category of information related to police misconduct and discipline. The repeal of 50-a at the state level is crucial for creating real police transparency and accountability, and for increasing public safety in our communities. We’re thrilled that New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson today called for the full repeal of 50-a. When it comes to progressive leadership on racial justice and police accountability, Speaker Johnson is far ahead of Mayor de Blasio,” said Carolyn Martinez-Class, a spokesperson for Communities United for Police Reform. (CPR)

“Frankly, it’s disgusting and wrong that Mayor de Blasio and the NYPD have used 50-a against Eric Garner's family, others impacted by police violence and the public. In 2015, a state court ruled that a summary of misconduct findings against the officer who killed Garner could be released and that 50-a did not apply. Yet the de Blasio administration sought an appeal to a higher court, effectively choosing to protect abusive officers instead of releasing crucial information about the misconduct to Garner’s family and the public,” said Martinez-Class from CPR.

“From Eric Garner to Delrawn Small, too many Black New Yorkers and other people of color have been criminalized, brutalized and killed by police officers in New York City. Those officers have not faced meaningful or timely consequences for their actions. Their misconduct is often shielded from additional scrutiny, because the NYPD uses 50-a to block the release of vital information about abusive officers that should be public. If 50-a is not repealed, Eric Garner's family will never see the report of findings and discipline recommendations that the NYPD administrative judge gives to Commissioner O'Neill, and the public may never know what the NYPD discipline decision is on Pantaleo, Adonis or any of the other officers that Eric Garner's family is demanding be fired,” said Martinez-Class from CPR.

“Bottom line: the public has a right to know about police officers who commit misconduct and whether or how they have faced disciplinary consequences for their harmful actions. That right to know is especially important for New Yorkers who have been brutalized by police officers, subject to gender-based violence, harassed, intimidated, and for families whose loved ones have been killed by police,” said Martinez-Class from CPR.

"The Arab American Association of New York celebrates Speaker Corey Johnson for calling to repeal 50-a in his speech today. Our communities have always been victims of police misconduct, and repealing 50-a will help to ensure the safety of all New Yorkers. We need leaders in our communities that will help us in our fight for police transparency and accountability, and repealing 50-a is a crucial step in that fight," said Rama Issa-Ibrahim, Executive Director at the Arab American Association of New York.

“The Center for Constitutional Rights commends Speaker Johnson for calling on the state legislature to repeal 50-a, a harmful secrecy law that shrouds police disciplinary records from the public. The courts have continued to narrowly interpret this law and the time for it to be repealed is now,” said Nahal Zamani, Advocacy Program Manager at the Center for Constitutional Rights. 

“Girls for Gender Equity applauds Speaker Johnson’s principled and timely move to call for a full repeal New York State Civil Rights Law 50-a. This repeal is urgent for survivors of police violence, including survivors of police sexual violence. This law hides previous misconduct by officers and any outcomes of their disciplinary proceedings.  We know sexual violence is patterned behavior and that these acts are not isolated incidents. Survivors of police violence and police sexual violence deserve so much more,” said Kylynn Grier, Policy Manager at Girls for Gender Equity.

“Picture the Homeless would like to thank Speaker Johnson for taking the initiative to step up and speak out on repealing 50-a which has harmed homeless New Yorkers in their efforts to secure justice from rogue officers who violate their civil rights through Broken Windows policing. As New York continues its efforts in improving police transparency and accountability, and building on such legislation as the Community Safety Act and the Right to Know Act, we now look to the Speaker in his commitment to the fight to repeal 50-a,” said Nikita Price, Civil Rights Organizer at Picture the Homeless. 

“As we watch the departmental trial of NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo for the murder of Eric Garner this week, it is as clear as ever that laws that shield officers’ prior misconduct from public view have no place in this city. CRL 50-a is a relic of a shameful time in New York’s history when police misconduct and racially discriminatory policing were tolerated, if not encouraged, among the highest ranking city officials. We are grateful to Speaker Johnson for welcoming a new era, one dedicated to transparency and the safety of Black and Brown New Yorkers, and one that has no room for archaic laws like CRL 50-a,” said Aaron Sussman, Law & Policy Fellow at NAACP Legal Defense Fund. 

"Right now, in NYC, there is no transparency with the disciplinary process of NYPD. And officers are not held accountable for lying at trial. that behavior must be exposed and eliminated, which will remain impossible while 50a is on the books. We agree with Speaker Corey Johnson that 50a MUST be repealed in Albany this year," said VOCAL-NY leader Roger Clark


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 policing practices based on cooperation and respect– not discriminatory targeting and harassment. CPR brings 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 unfairly targeted the most by the NYPD. CPR is fighting for reforms that will promote community safety while ensuring that the NYPD protects and serves all New Yorkers.

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Topics: Eric Garner Repeal 50-A Safer NY Act