The Appeal

New York Protests Could Finally Push Through Increased Police Transparency

Lawmakers are targeting a statute that has been used as a cudgel to bat away almost any inquiries into police misconduct.

Read the full piece in The Appeal

Protesters taking to the streets across the country since George Floyd’s death have one common demand: end police violence. Some are calling for transformational changes to reach that goal—shrinking police budgets, or abolishing the police altogether. In the short-term, meanwhile, the protests are giving local advocates a chance to go after policing policy they’ve long seen as unjust.

A prime example is in New York, where police disciplinary records are currently shrouded in secrecy. Section 50-a of the state’s civil rights law keeps confidential any personnel records that are used to evaluate a police officer’s, firefighter’s, or corrections officer’s performance, unless that officer or a court order permits their release. The law was enacted in 1976, purportedly as a way to ensure civil servants’ privacy, as well as to protect testifying cops from overzealous cross-examination by defense attorneys. But the law has become a cudgel to bat away almost any inquiries into police misconduct, especially in recent years.

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