As of June 12, 2020, NY law enforcement are obligated to disclose disciplinary records
Effective June 12, 2020, Section 50-a of the New York Civil Rights Law was repealed and Sections 86, 87, and 89 of the Public Officers Law was amended, in relation to the disclosure of law enforcement disciplinary records.
In sum, Section 50-a of the Civil Rights Law stated that all personnel records of police officers, firefighters, and correction officers used to evaluate performance toward continued employment or promotion were considered confidential and – except as mandated by lawful court order – were not subject to inspection or review without the express written consent of such officer. This statute essentially prevented access to police personnel records by criminal defense attorneys, attorneys representing individuals who suffered civil rights violations caused by police officers, and the general public.
Now, not only are prosecutors obligated under recent discovery reforms to the New York Criminal Procedure Law to disclose law enforcement disciplinary records, but law enforcement disciplinary records can be sought under the Freedom of Information Law. Thus, with the repeal of Civil Rights Law 50-a, citizens are able to obtain law enforcement disciplinary records, which have been defined under Section 86(6) of the Public Officers Law as: “any record created in furtherance of a law enforcement disciplinary proceeding, including, but not limited to:
(a) the complaints, allegations, and charges against an employee;
(b) the name of the employee complained of or charged;
(c) the transcript of any disciplinary trial or hearing, including any exhibits
introduced at such trial or hearing;
(d) the disposition of any disciplinary proceeding; and
(e) the final written opinion or memorandum supporting the disposition and discipline imposed including the agency’s complete factual findings and its analysis of the conduct and appropriate discipline of the covered employee.”
Redactions to such records prior to disclosure are limited to the information listed in Sections 87(4-a) and (4-b) of the Public Officers Law and Sections 89(2-b) and (2-c) of the Public Officers Law. These redactions are to protect the officers’ personal privacy and to be used for home addresses, phone numbers, social security numbers, etc.