Appeals Court Rules Against New York Police Unions, Says Misconduct Records Can Be Released
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit ruled Tuesday that New York City could release police misconduct records, rejecting arguments from police unions that the disclosure would invade officers’ privacy and put them in danger.
A three-judge panel unanimously upheld a lower court’s ruling from last August finding that New York City’s planned release of misconduct records, including unsubstantiated allegations, was not likely to endanger police officers.
“We fully and unequivocally respect the dangers and risks police officers face every day,” the court wrote. “But we cannot say that the District Court abused its discretion when it determined that the Unions have not sufficiently demonstrated that those dangers and risks are likely to increase because of the City’s planned disclosures. In arriving at that conclusion, we note again that many other States make similar misconduct records at least partially available to the public without any evidence of a resulting increase of danger to police officers.”
The ruling is a major blow to New York police, firefighter, and prison guard unions in their fight to keep misconduct records secret. Last June, the state legislature, over the furious objections of the unions, repealed Section 50-a of New York’s civil rights statute, a law that had kept swaths of police records hidden from the public for more than four decades.
Police departments and unions used Section 50-a to hide, or attempt to hide, things like substantiated citizen complaints of excessive force, shooting reports, body camera footage, reports of lost
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