The provision that keeps police disciplinary records under lock and key should be repealed in the interest of public disclosure and keeping law enforcement accountable, New York's main good-government organizations said Thursday in an open letter to the state's top elected officials.
The push to repeal the 50-a provision from lawmakers and advocates comes amid widespread protests across the country over policing and police brutality following the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis after he was pinned by a kneeling police officer.
The now-fired officer, Derek Chauvin, had multiple complaints filed against him over the years.
State lawmakers are discussing a package of measures to address the issue, including changing the 50-a provision. Governor Andrew Cuomo has said he would sign any measure the Legislature sends to him that does so.
"If there is near-complete secrecy surrounding officer misconduct and discipline – as 50-a currently imposes – then New Yorkers will have no confidence in our police oversight apparatus," the groups wrote in the letter to the governor, Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie as well as Republican leaders Will Barclay and John Flanagan in the Assembly and Senate.
"Every police officer is impugned when the public cannot tell whether officers are held accountable and face consequences for misconduct. This poses a serious risk to both civilians and police officers."
Keeping the records private can make it harder not just for the public to ensure police accountability, but also limits the police department's efforts.
"Without information as to the outcome of such proceedings in substantiated cases, it is impossible to know if those systems are functioning properly," the groups wrote.
Signing onto the letter: Reinvent Albany, Common Cause, the New York Public Interest Research Group, Citizens Union and the League of Women Voters.