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NYCLU on First Appellate Decisions Reaffirming 50-a Repeal and Police Transparency

NEW YORK – Today, in the New York Civil Liberties Union’s (NYCLU) cases against the Syracuse and Rochester Police Departments, the Appellate Division issued the state’s first appellate-level decisions requiring that police departments disclose open and unsubstantiated disciplinary records, as well as records predating the 2020 repeal of section 50-a, to the public. The NYCLU issued the following statement from supervising attorney Bobby Hodgson.

“For too long, Rochester and Syracuse residents have remained in the dark about officers accused of misconduct, the outcomes of investigations, and what discipline officers faced, if any. With the repeal of section 50-a, the state legislature meant for these documents to become public, and today the New York State appellate court affirmed for the first time that 50-a must be repealed in theory and in practice,” said Bobby Hodgson, supervising attorney at the NYCLU. “Rochester and Syracuse Police Departments cannot withhold disciplinary records to which the public is legally entitled after the repeal of 50-a. Now, the public will finally know when and why Rochester and Syracuse police failed to impose discipline. With today’s decision, the appellate court made clear that police transparency is codified into law, and police departments can no longer argue that they must be trusted to police themselves, immune from public scrutiny.”

These proceedings are part of a statewide police transparency campaign in which the NYCLU and pro bono counsel filed state FOIL requests with twelve police departments statewide and the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision. As part of this campaign, the NYCLU has filed lawsuits against the New York State Police, as well as police departments in RochesterSyracuseFreeportTroyBuffalo, Nassau County, and Suffolk County for withholding public records. Courts statewide have rejected the vast majority of efforts to thwart accountability and disclosure following the repeal of 50-a, including in Schenectady following the NYCLU’s intervention. NYCLU v. Syracuse was filed with pro bono counsel from Latham & Watkins LLP, and NYCLU v. Rochester was filed with pro bono counsel from Shearman & Sterling LLP.

Read the decisions below.

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