On June 9, 2020, New York State lawmakers moved history forward by voting to repeal Sec. 50-a of the New York Civil Rights law, a state law that enabled police departments to withhold officers’ disciplinary records from public view.
The vote came in response to the horrific death of George Floyd, a nationwide movement for police reform and accountability, and the general sentiment that systemic change is necessary to redress a systemic problem – namely, the violence perpetrated against minority communities and people of color.
The repeal of 50-a was among numerous other calls for change as part of New York’s ‘Say Their Name’ Reform agenda, which included banning chokeholds by law enforcement officers; prohibiting false race-based 911 reports and making them a crime; and designating the Attorney General as an independent prosecutor for matters relating to the deaths of unarmed civilians caused by law enforcement.
Governor Andrew Cuomo is set to sign the 50-a reform bill into law, and once done, the bill will take immediate effect. As a result of the bill, law enforcement agencies will now be required to turn over the disciplinary records of police officers when requested under New York’s Freedom of Information Law, though certain types of information – such as home addresses – will remain protected.
Assembly member Daniel O’Donnell (D-Manhattan), sponsor of the bill to repeal 50-a, commented on its passage: “It is an attempt to level the playing field, it is an attempt to get information into the public . . . We take one step forward today on transparency. We allow people some degree of peace.”