PDs cannot automatically withhold disciplinary reports involving unproven complaints, N.Y. court rules
The case evolved from a records request that was rejected on the grounds that unsubstantiated discipline records could be withheld to protect officers’ privacy
By Joanna Putman
NEW YORK — A New York state appellate court has ruled that police cannot automatically withhold discipline records, Lohud reported.
The Second Department of the Supreme Court’s Appellate Division, which covers parts of New York City and surrounding suburbs, has ruled that police agencies cannot automatically withhold disciplinary records involving unproven allegations, according to the report.
The case evolved from a request from a news organization to obtain disciplinary records from the Nassau County Police Department. The department refused to honor the records request on the grounds that unsubstantiated discipline records could be categorically withheld to protect officers’ privacy, according to the report.
Daniel Novack, co-chair of the New York State Bar Association’s committee on media law, told Lohud that withholding even unsubstantiated records from the public “would make it impossible for the public to know if [internal] investigations are being properly conducted.”
In 2020, the courts repealed Section 50, a state civil rights law that had previously shielded all police discipline records. Although some lower court rulings have followed the principle of automatic nondisclosure of unsubstantiated claims, the Second Department decision marks the third state appellate decision in favor of disclosure, according to the report.