If there is something that seems like it shouldn’t happen, it’s the shielding of records that should be available to the public. In New York, the top court determined that it would continue to shield the police misconduct records from the public.
New York’s Civil Rights Law allows personnel files of police officers to be sealed. The files belonging to firefighters and corrections officers may be sealed as well. However, there is a problem since sealing those records could also seal away a history of misconduct. What does that mean for citizens? It means they don’t know if an officer has been disciplined for misconduct or if they’ve been involved in negative situations in the past.
The New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) has been fighting to get these records released. The NYCLU believes that it is of the public’s interest to know about the officers who are taken before the Civilian Complaint Review Board. In fact, the NYCLU did initially win a court order to get redacted records released. An appeal overturned that judge’s opinion.
The goal of shielding these reports, according to the court, is to shield officers from harassment and embarrassment. Judges need to determine, on a case-by-case basis, if an officer’s record should be open to the public.
This is something that may worry you, just as it worries others. Today, it’s not easy to know anything about the people who are designated to protect you. That includes not knowing who among those individuals may decide to take matters into their own hands or to deliver their own form of “justice.”