Mayor Bill De Blasio, and State Sen. Zellnor Myrie (D-Brownsville, Crown Heights, East Flatbush, Gowanus, Park Slope, Prospect Heights, Prospect Lefferts Gardens, South Slope, Sunset Park) today lauded a federal court ruling yesterday upholding a state law allowing the public release of New York City Police Department officer disciplinary records.
Last year’s sweeping police reforms, in response to the city’s stark outcry against police brutality in Black and Brown communities, included a bill that called for the release of law enforcement disciplinary records. Bill S8496 repealed a long-standing statute called Civil Rights Law 50-A that was originally established in 1976, and meant to protect personnel records of officers.
However, the bill’s implementation was swiftly halted when police and firefighter unions tied up de Blasio’s administration in litigation. Several unions and benevolent associations representing the New York City Police Department (NYPD), the New York City Fire Department (FDNY), and the New York City Department of Correction (DOC) filed against the city.
The unions argued that making the records public would violate their collective bargaining agreements (CBA), cause irreparable harm to their careers and future employment opportunities, and heighen danger for officer’s safety among other things.
But the U.S. Federal Appeals Court Second Circuit ruled yesterday, Feb. 16 against the unions and affirmed that records could be released under the state law.
“This is a very important ruling, it finally allows us after years of trying to get this changed to move forward. My goal is to start releasing data quickly. We still need further guidance from the court, but I’d like to see as early as next week to see the release of data so long as it conforms with the specifics of the court’s ruling,” said de Blasio.
Myrie, who co-sponsored the bill, said he was honored to vote for the repeal of 50-A after years of advocacy from communities that look like his.
“The people spoke clearly in support of transparency and accountability and I am happy the Second Circuit agreed. Our years of advocacy to push for reform should never have been tangled in bad-faith litigation, but I am pleased that the courts decided in favor of our impacted communities. I’m hopeful this ruling is yet another step in the ongoing struggle for police accountability,” said Myrie.
The court announced its intention to proactively publish certain types of disciplinary records and provide other records upon request through New York’s Freedom of Information Law (FOIL).
“We have considered the Unions’ remaining arguments and conclude that they are without merit,” transcribed the court in its summary.
The court said that unions “failed to demonstrate” evidence for their claims and called certain parts of their arguments “arbitrary and capricious.”
“When it comes to a crucial issue, the bond between police and community, the partnership we need to keep building between police and community, that is always based on trust, accountability, and, transparency,” said de Blasio.