Push for Demo­crat-led Al­bany to back NYPD trans­parency

New York Daily News - - NEWS - BY JIL­LIAN JOR­GENSEN, GRA­HAM RAYMAN AND THOMAS TRACY With Rocco Parascandola

City of­fi­cials hope Al­bany's new Demo­cratic-led Leg­is­la­ture will change a decades-old Civil Ser­vice law that bars the re­lease of an NYPD of­fi­cer's dis­ci­plinary record — and keeps the pub­lic “in the dark about who is serv­ing their com­mu­nity.”

“In a day and age in which we're talk­ing about mend­ing the wounds of the past, and bring po­lice to­gether with the com­mu­nity, we know the key to that is ac­count­abil­ity,” City Coun­cil­man Dono­van Richards (D-Queens) said in call­ing for a re­peal of 50-a, a small sec­tion of the state's civil rights code that shields NYPD dis­ci­plinary records.

The law has been on the books since 1976, but the NYPD didn't be­gin fol­low­ing it un­til two years ago, con­ced­ing it had been vi­o­lat­ing 50-a for more than 40 years.

With Democrats set to con­trol both the As­sem­bly and state Se­nate, trans­parency advocates be­lieve now's the time to change the law.

“We can no longer hide be­hind 50-a,” said Richards, who heads the Coun­cil's Pub­lic Safety Com­mit­tee. “With­out a re­peal, with­out some leg­is­la­tion, the pub­lic is in the dark about who is serv­ing their com­mu­nity.”

Both Po­lice Com­mis­sioner James O'Neill and Mayor de Bla­sio have ad­vo­cated for a change in the law, but their de­mands did lit­tle to move Al­bany leg­is­la­tors. Po­lice unions through­out the state sup­port the law.

Cyn­thia Conti-Cook, staff at­tor­ney with the spe­cial lit­i­ga­tion unit at the Le­gal Aid So­ci­ety, said the time is right for change.

“New York is now one of only two states that still blocks ac­cess to po­lice dis­ci­plinary records,” she said. “If Mayor Bill de Bla­sio is sin­cere about po­lice ac­count­abil­ity and trans­parency, he must put the en­tire weight of his of­fice be­hind see­ing this re­peal to fruition.”

Yet at a po­lit­i­cal con­fer­ence in San Juan this week­end, 50-a was not on many leg­is­la­tors' minds.

In­com­ing At­tor­ney Gen­eral Leti­tia James — who made chang­ing 50-a part of her elec­tion plat­form — said it would be a pri­or­ity, along with other crim­i­nal jus­tice re­forms.

“I'm con­fi­dent that we will see some ver­sion of 50-a passed in the state Se­nate and the state As­sem­bly,” she said.

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