Summary of S. 8496/A. 10611: The Repeal of 50-a
June 09, 2020

Senator Jamal Bailey and Assembly member Daniel O’Donnell

Speaker Carl Heastie and Senators Sepulveda, Benjamin, Biaggi, Breslin, Carlucci, Comrie, Gianaris, Hoylman, Jackson, Kavanagh, Krueger, Liu, May, Montgomery, Myrie, Parker, Ramos, Rivera, Salazar, Sander Jr., Serrano, and Stavisky.

In 1976, the New York Legislature pass into law Civil Rights Law 50-a, which made all personnel records used to determine continued employment and promotions for law enforcement officers confidential. Under this law, and subsequent court rulings, disciplinary records and complaints from the public around police misconduct and excessive use of force were shielded from the public. The most well-known example of 50-a’s impact on a fair and transparent justice system is the death of Eric Gardner. Following Eric Gardner’s death at the hands of NYPD Officer Daniel Pantaleo, the public was left in the dark as to Pantaleo’s history of misconduct until a Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB) staff member leaked his complaint history to the press three years after Eric Gardner’s death. The documents revealed that Pantaleo had numerous allegations lodged against him for misconduct, several of which had been substantiated by the CCRB.

On June 9th, 2020, the New York legislature passed S. 8496/A. 10611, repealing Civil Rights Law 50-a.

Legislative Overview
S. 8496/A. 10611 repeals 50-a and moves the public disclosure of police misconduct and disciplinary records into the purview of the state’s Freedom of Information Law. The bill allows for the release of disciplinary records, including charges and allegations submitted by the public. The only disciplinary records that will continue to be withheld from the public are for technical infractions unrelated interactions with the public or that interfere with investigative and enforcement responsibilities. The bill also adds additional measures to protect sensitive, personal information from being released to the public including home address and social security numbers.

This bill will take effect immediately upon the Governor’s signature.

Section by section summary
Section 1: Repeals 50-a

Section 2:

  • Adds definitions for “Law Enforcement disciplinary records”, “Law enforcement disciplinary proceedings”, “Technical Infraction”, and “Law enforcement agency” to the Title of the Public Officers Law governing Freedom of Information Law.
    • Disciplinary records defined as:
      • Complaints, allegations, and charges against an employee;
      • Name of employee;
      • Transcript of any disciplinary trial or hearing, including any exhibits introduced at such trial or hearing;
      • Disposition of any disciplinary proceeding; and;
      • Final written opinion supporting disposition and discipline including agency’s complete factual findings and analysis of the conduct and appropriate discipline of officer.
    • Technical Infraction is defined as:
      • a minor rule violation  by  a  person employed  by  a  law  enforcement agency as defined in this section as a police officer, peace officer, or firefighter or  firefighter/paramedic, solely  related  to the enforcement of administrative departmental rules that:
        • Do not involve interactions with members of the public;
        • Are not of  public  concern; and
        • Are not otherwise connected to such person’s investigative, enforcement, training, supervision, or reporting responsibilities.

Section 3 and 4:
   Requires the redaction of the following from law enforcement disciplinary records:

    • Medical history of an employee not including records obtained during the investigation of any misconduct and are pertinent to the disposition of such investigation;
    • Home address, home and personal cell number, personal email address;
    • Social security number;
    • Disclosure of the use of employee assistance program, mental health service, or substance abuse assistance service (unless such use is mandated by law enforcement disciplinary proceeding pursuant to FOIL); and,
    • Disclosure of technical infractions.

About NYUJ
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