NEW YORK STATE ASSEMBLY MEMORANDUM IN SUPPORT OF LEGISLATION submitted in accordance with Assembly Rule III, Sec 1(f)
BILL NUMBER: A10611
SPONSOR: Rules (O'Donnell)
TITLE OF BILL:
An act to amend the civil rights law and the public officers law, in
relation to the disclosure of law enforcement disciplinary records; and
to repeal section 50-a of the civil rights law relating thereto
PURPOSE OR GENERAL IDEA OF BILL:
The purpose of this bill is to repeal section 50-a of the civil rights
law and make changes to article 6 of the public officers law to provide
for the release of certain law enforcement records.
SUMMARY OF PROVISIONS:
Section one repeals section 50-a of the civil rights law.
Section two creates four new subdivisions in section 86 of the public
officers law. Subdivision 6 defines law enforcement disciplinary
records, subdivision 7 defines a law enforcement disciplinary proceed-
ing, subdivision 8 defines what constitutes a law enforcement agency,
and subdivision 9 defines a technical infraction.
Section three creates two new subdivisions which relate to the redaction
of portions of a law enforcement disciplinary records.
Section four provides that a law enforcement agency would be required to
redact from law enforcement disciplinary records:
* Items involving medical history of police officers, peace officers,
firefighters and firefighter/paramedic unless the records was obtained
during the course of an agency's investigation of the person's miscon-
* home addresses and personal phone numbers and email address of police
officers, peace officers, firefighters and firefighter/paramedic or a
family member or the complainant or another person in the disciplinary
* Social security numbers;
* The use of Employee. Assistance Program, mental health services or
substance abuse by police officers, peace officers, firefighters and
firefighter/paramedic unless the use of is mandated by a disciplinary
proceeding that may otherwise be disclosed.
A law enforcement agency may also redact law enforcement disciplinary
records that pertain to technical infractions. "Technical infraction" is
defined as a minor rule violation by a person employed by a law enforce-
ment agency as a police officer, peace officer, or firefighter or
firefighter/paramedic, solely related to the enforcement of administra-
tive departmental rules that (a) do not involve interactions with
members of the public, (b) are not of public concern, and (c) are not
otherwise connected to a such person's investigative, enforcement,
training, supervision, or reporting responsibilities.
Section 5 is the effective date.
Section 50-a of the New York State Civil Rights Law permits law enforce-
ment officers to refuse disclosure of "personnel records used to evalu-
ate performance toward continued employment or promotion." This
exemption was adopted in 1976 by the Legislature in order to prevent
criminal defense lawyers from using such records in cross examination of
police witnesses during criminal prosecutions. According to the 2014
annual report by the State Committee on Open Government to the Governor
and the State Legislature, "this narrow exemption has been expanded in
the courts to allow police departments to withhold from the public
virtually any record that contains any information that could conceiva-
bly be used to evaluate the performance of a police officer.
Recent events have highlighted the importance for the public to have
access to information, specifically with regards to law enforcement
disciplinary records. The Freedom of Information Law helps achieve the
goal of an open and transparent government by providing individuals with
greater access to their government. There is a strong presumption under
FOIL that government records are accessible to the public. That ability
to FOIL this type of record will lead to a greater trust between the
public and law enforcement.
PRIOR LEGISLATIVE HISTORY:
FISCAL IMPLICATIONS FOR STATE AND LOCAL GOVERNMENTS:
This act shall take effect immediately.