October 20, 2016
By Neal Tepel
New York, NY – Mayor Bill de Blasio has called for significant amendments to Section 50-a of the New York State Civil Rights Law to make disciplinary information about police officers subject to disclosure.
“This Administration is committed to bringing greater transparency to the disciplinary records of law enforcement and other uniformed personnel. The public interest is discerned by State Civil Rights Law Section 50-a in its current, flawed form,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio.
“We are announcing a set of guiding principles that must shape the necessary amendments required to legally disclose the disciplinary records of law enforcement and other uniformed personnel. Without significant changes to this statute, the City remains barred from providing New Yorkers with the transparency we deserve. We hope advocates for greater transparency will join us in the effort to reform this State law.”
Civil Rights Law Section 50-a, enacted in 1976, treats as confidential all personnel records of law enforcement and other uniformed personnel. Under this section of law, personnel records of law enforcement and other uniformed personnel may only be disclosed pursuant to a court order or with the express written consent of the employee to whom the records pertain. Several appellate court decisions have held that personnel records, including summaries of disciplinary actions taken against law enforcement and other uniformed personnel, cannot be disclosed because of the confidentiality protections under Civil Rights Law Section 50-a.
The de Blasio Administration, strongly believes that the public interest in transparency and accountability for those in positions of public trust is not well-served by the law as it currently exists and, therefore, it will seek amendments to Civil Rights Law Section 50-a in the upcoming 2017 state legislative session.
“I believe in transparency. I also believe that making information about disciplinary proceedings public will help us build trust with the community,” said NYPD Commissioner James P. O’Neill. “It is my hope we can work with the State legislature and the Governor on the proposed 50-a amendment.”