All NYPD disciplinary records to go public online next month

The database will include interdepartmental information, such as the charges against officers and any formal actions taken against them

Kyle Lawson
Staten Island Advance

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — Historic changes to the transparency of NYPD disciplinary records and the speed at which cops are investigated for misconduct were laid out in detail Wednesday by Mayor Bill de Blasio.

“For the nation’s largest police force to take these actions sends a message not only to the people of this city but to people all over this country that we can do things very differently,” de Blasio said.

In Albany, Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Friday signed an executive order requiring about 500 local police agencies across New York to implement a plan by April 1, 2021 that addresses police reform.

In July, the disciplinary records of about 1,100 pending cases against NYPD officers for alleged misconduct will be released online, in a way that’s “easy to access.”

The database will include inner-departmental information included names of officers, the charges against them, hearing dates, and any other formal actions taken against officers, de Blasio said.

An even more comprehensive list including past disciplinary actions will be rolled out in the months ahead.

“Too often...people simply felt that no matter how right they were, no matter how wrong the thing that happened to them, there would be no consequence,” de Blasio said. “When people don’t think there’s going to be justice, how is there going to be trust?”

The city’s new policy is made possible by state legislators repealing 50-A, a section of New York law dating back about 45 years that allowed police, fire and corrections departments to conceal disciplinary and personnel records.

The president of the city’s largest police union responded to the announcement Wednesday, saying the move shows that the city’s Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) process does “absolutely nothing to protect police officers.”

“It allows employers to release whatever they want, whenever and however they want,” said Police Benevolent Association President Patrick Lynch.

De Blasio announced Wednesday that the release of body-worn camera footage in certain police-involved situations will be mandatory, and no longer at the discretion of the NYPD.

Additionally, audio and video of prior incidents that meet the criteria -- dating back to when the program first was initiated -- also will be released to the public.

Body-worn cameras became mandatory for NYPD officers several years ago, when U.S. District Court Judge Shira A. Scheindlin ruled as unconstitutional the NYPD’s controversial stop-and-frisk program because it allegedly targeted minorities.

The initiative, however, was rolled out slowly over the course of several years, and later came with several exceptions as to how often they were worn and which footage would be made available to the public.

The first protocols in 2019 allowed the department broad authority when deciding if footage should be made public, and the extent to which it would be censored or redacted.

Some members of the NYPD have in the past touted the use of the cameras to defend officers accused of misconduct in a situation when they were defending their own lives.

De Blasio on Wednesday outlined a new timeline for officers accused of crimes against civilians.

If an officer is accused of misconduct, the police commissioner will have 48 hours to determine if they should be placed on modified duty or suspended.

The Internal Affairs Bureau (IAB) would then have two weeks to conduct an investigation.

Additionally, IAB will have to file charges within 18 months for administrative violations. However, there’s no limit on time to file for conduct that would criminal.

Lynch railed against the proposal, saying that instead of affording officers due process, it “amounts to no process.”

“The only way to complete every investigation – even large and complex ones – within an arbitrary political deadline is to predetermine the outcome in every case,” Lynch said. “In the current environment, every police officer knows what that outcome will be.”

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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