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Mon Oct 12, 2015, 06:47 PM

NYT Editorial: A Law That Hides Police Misconduct From the Public

Wow -- I had no idea this law existed, let alone that it is unique to New York State/ According to the editorial, it was passed in 1976, with the intent of preventing criminal defense attorneys from bringing up personnel information from an officer's record in criminal trials in order to discredit that officer's testimony. Municipalities have broadened their interpretation of the law to extend even to instances of substantiated misconduct by an officer. While I can envision some instances in which a defense attorney might try to unfairly use something from an officer's personnel file to discredit him or her, I can also envision cases in which a history of misconduct by an officer might very well speak to the credibility of his or her testimony. In any case, it is hard to see how such a law was ever necessary, because if a defense counsel were to bring up something from an officer's personnel file that was irrelevant to the case, a prosecutor could object, and a judge (if he or she agreed it was irrelevant) could immediately quash that line of questioning. This smacks of something lobbied for by the police unions in order to shield their members from accountability for misconduct.

[font size=5]A Law That Hides Police Misconduct From the Public[/font]


The uniquely restrictive New York State law that is used to conceal the disciplinary histories of police officers — even some who have committed crimes — reared its head again last week in misconduct proceedings against the officer who brutalized the retired tennis player James Blake during a mistaken arrest in Manhattan last month.

The public has the right to be kept informed of police misconduct cases, especially at a time of heightened concern over police brutality. But when the city’s Civilian Complaint Review Board substantiated excessive force charges against James Frascatore, the officer who attacked Mr. Blake, it was allowed to release its findings to Mr. Blake’s lawyer but was barred from making them available to the public. Had Mr. Blake’s attorney not released the information, the public would still be in the dark.

The state law on officers’ histories is the only one of its kind in the nation. It was enacted in 1976 to prevent criminal defense lawyers from using freedom-of-information laws to gain access to personnel records for information to use against officers in trials.

The law says an officer’s personnel record cannot be publicly released or cited in court without a judge’s approval. But municipalities and courts have since broadened the definition of “personnel record” to shield almost any information. As a result police officers, who have more authority over the public than any other public-sector employees, are actually the least accountable. Citing this problem, the New York State Committee on Open Government, which advises government on privacy matters, has rightly called for the Legislature to repeal the statute.

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Reply NYT Editorial: A Law That Hides Police Misconduct From the Public (Original post)
markpkessinger Oct 2015 OP
hifiguy Oct 2015 #1
markpkessinger Oct 2015 #2

Response to markpkessinger (Original post)

Mon Oct 12, 2015, 06:53 PM

1. That is outrageous.


These assholes are being (over)paid by the public, and the public has a right to know what the disciplinary records of these dicks contain. They protect their asses and serve only themselves. Fuck this.

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Response to hifiguy (Reply #1)

Mon Oct 12, 2015, 10:36 PM

2. Exactly . . .

It is one thing to shield routine performance evaluations, salary increases, etc. from public view. But disciplinary matters -- particularly anything related to interactions with the public -- are something else entirely, and should certainly be open to public scrutiny.

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