ALBANY – In a sweeping change to a section of New York’s Civil Rights Law, state lawmakers voted Tuesday to repeal 50-A making police personnel records public.
Both New York State Senator George Borrello and Assemblyman Andy Goodell voted against the repeal.
Under 50-A, home addresses, personal phone numbers, and emails of officers and their families were protected. Senator Borrello says the repeal does not provide police “due process.”
“It takes away their due process,” said Borrello. “When a false allegation is made against a member of law enforcement that stays on their record forever.”
Borrello says unlike other professions, the repeal of 50-A prevents unsubstantiated claims from first responders’ records. The Senator says that misstep in the repeal was discussed prior to the vote.
“During the floor debate the sponsor of the legislation was asked: why did you not change the public officers’ law so that unsubstantiated claims would be removed from those records,” explained Borrello. “The response was just because it was unsubstantiated doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.”
Eliminating the law makes complaints against officers, as well as transcripts and final dispositions of disciplinary proceedings, public for the first time in decades.
Assemblyman Andy Goodell says he was for some modifications of 50-A, just not the full repeal.
“You want a balanced approach, not a knee jerk reaction,” said Assemblyman Goodell. “I would support legislation that made it clear that founded complaints should be public and available for inspection.”
Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who has recently supported reforming the law, has said in the wake of the protests that he will sign the repeal. Only Delaware has a similar law.
Many other states, like Minnesota where George Floyd was killed, do not have a law like 50-A.
The legislature on Monday passed other police accountability measures, banning police from using chokeholds, guaranteeing the right to record police activity and making it easier to file lawsuits against people making race-based 911 calls.
The measure to make officers’ records and misconduct complaints public is among several police accountability bills racing through the state legislature. Lawmakers passed other bills that would provide all state troopers with body cameras and ensure that police officers provide medical and mental health attention to people in custody.