Federal Court Gives NYC Green Light To Release Police Disciplinary Records. Police Unions Are Predictably Mad

By Zack Linly

Cops real­ly seem to hate the idea of police dis­ci­pli­nary records being made pub­lic. If a civil­ian has a crim­i­nal record, courts, poten­tial employ­ers, renters and oth­ers would be able to access that infor­ma­tion through the sim­plest of back­ground checks, but for some rea­son, police offi­cers appear to think that putting on the uni­form should shield them from such scruti­ny. “If you’ve done noth­ing wrong, you have noth­ing to wor­ry about,” is log­ic that only seems to apply to peo­ple on the receiv­ing end of police work, not so much for offi­cers themselves.

On Tuesday, a fed­er­al appeals court in New York dealt a blow to police unions by, well, rul­ing in favor of police trans­paren­cy and account­abil­i­ty by allow­ing for NYC to release “hun­dreds of thou­sands of police dis­ci­pli­nary records, a major mile­stone in a long and bit­ter polit­i­cal bat­tle to open the records to pub­lic scruti­ny,” the New York Times reports.

Mayor Bill de Blasio didn’t give a spe­cif­ic time­frame for when the records would be made pub­lic, but he said, “We look for­ward to releas­ing this data,” and that his office would “seek clar­i­ty” from the court as to when the process of releas­ing those records could begin.

Police offi­cers and “back the blue” enthu­si­asts are going to feel how­ev­er they’re going to feel about the rul­ing — which also extends to fire­fight­ers and cor­rec­tions offi­cers — but for activists, civ­il lib­er­ties groups and any­one else who thinks hav­ing access to a police officer’s report card is ben­e­fi­cial to soci­ety, this is, at the very least, a small victory.

From the Times:

For decades, the dis­ci­pli­nary records of police offi­cers in New York were shield­ed from pub­lic dis­clo­sure by the state’s civ­il rights law. Then, in June, the State Legislature repealed the sec­tion of the law, known as 50‑a, that had kept such records confidential.

The repeal was part of a pack­age of leg­isla­tive changes aimed at reduc­ing police mis­con­duct in the wake of the killing of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police offi­cers, which had ignit­ed nation­wide protests against police brutality.

For the past sev­en years, we’ve fun­da­men­tal­ly changed how we police our city, strength­en­ing the bonds between com­mu­ni­ties and the offi­cers who serve them,” Mr. de Blasio said in a state­ment on Tuesday.

Now, we can go even fur­ther to restore account­abil­i­ty and trust to the dis­ci­pli­nary process,” he said. “Good rid­dance to 50‑a.”

Of course, the unions that sued to keep police bru­tal­i­ty police records sealed aren’t hap­py with the Tuesday rul­ing and they, appar­ent­ly, are not will­ing to give up the fight for police to be able to do what­ev­er the fuck they want with­out the pub­lic know­ing shit police privacy.

Today’s rul­ing does not end our fight to pro­tect our mem­bers’ safe­ty and due process rights,” Hank Sheinkopf, a spokesper­son for the coali­tion of unions, said.

More from the Times:

The order by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit upheld a low­er-court rul­ing and addressed com­plaints raised by the unions, includ­ing the fear that the dis­clo­sures could height­en the risks for police officers.

We ful­ly and unequiv­o­cal­ly respect the dan­gers and risks police offi­cers face every day,” the pan­el said. “But we can­not say that the District Court abused its dis­cre­tion when it deter­mined that the unions have not suf­fi­cient­ly demon­strat­ed that those dan­gers and risks are like­ly to increase because of the city’s planned disclosures.”

Again, if cops are going to argue — with­out suf­fi­cient evi­dence — that pub­lic view­ing of their records puts them at risk, then that ener­gy should be kept for everyone’s records. But we need to know about the back­grounds of teach­ers, politi­cians, coun­selors, physi­cians, retail work­ers, servers, babysit­ters, blind dates — lit­er­al­ly any­one who wants to do any­thing that affects the gen­er­al pub­lic. So why not police?

If polic­ing is such an impor­tant job, then police trans­paren­cy is just as impor­tant as it is for every­one else.

(Story orig­i­nat­ed at the root)

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