NEW YORK - Today the New York Legislature voted to fully repeal New York Civil Rights Law Section 50-a, which kept the disciplinary records of police officers hidden from the public. The repeal means that police departments across the state can no longer shield officer disciplinary and misconduct records from scrutiny and the public can better hold officers accountable. In response, the New York Civil Liberties Union issued the following statement from Executive Director, Donna Lieberman:
“This is a historic win for New York and a long overdue change to the most restrictive police secrecy law in the country. For decades, 50-a has allowed police departments to hide the disciplinary records of abusive officers and to sidestep meaningful accountability. This repeal is the result of years of work by advocates led by families whose loved ones have been killed by police and who were routinely rebuffed when they tried to find out whether the department was doing anything to hold the officers accountable. The NYPD invoked 50-a to hide the long disciplinary record of Daniel Pantaleo, the officer who killed Eric Garner. The Garner family only found out about Pantaleo’s record after it was leaked to a reporter. Too many other families and loved ones have faced those same barriers to justice.
“The repeal of 50-a is a critical step toward justice for New Yorkers, especially Black and Brown New Yorkers who have historically been the main targets of police abuse. The repeal will make it harder for police departments to cover up abuse and to look the other way when officers engage in gross misconduct.
“This reform comes at an urgent moment as the recent murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, Ahmaud Arbery and others have forced people of all races and nationalities to finally wake up to the reality of police violence that Black people have been living with and fighting back against for centuries. The brutal police attacks on New Yorkers who have poured into the streets in protest over the past weeks have demonstrated all too well the need for systematic change.
“New Yorkers have sent a powerful message that the old system of police violence and impunity can no longer stand. The NYCLU is in solidarity with Black and Brown New Yorkers across the state to continue the work. The repeal of 50-a is just the beginning of the urgent and dramatic shift in policing necessary to bend the arc of history toward justice.”