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Updated: February 1, 2019, 8:30 PM

Panel: NY law hinders police discipline transparency

By MICHAEL R. SISAK (Associated Press)

NEW YORK - (AP) -- The New York Police Department should take steps to increase transparency and accountability in its officer disciplinary process, but it faces a serious obstacle in a state law that keeps personnel records secret, a panel of criminal justice professionals said on Friday.

Two former U.S. attorneys and a former federal judge said they found the disciplinary process generally works well but recommended the NYPD adopt a series of improvements.

"We found a complex disciplinary system, which is imperfect, but which generally seems to deliver fair disciplinary outcomes," said Mary Jo White, one of the former U.S. attorneys.

The most frequent complaint the panel heard was the lack of transparency, she said.

Police Commissioner James O'Neill enlisted the trio last June in an effort to make sure discipline practices are fair and effective. He said Friday that the department accepts all of the recommendations, and he appointed his top deputy to implement some within 60 days.

But the largest union, the Police Benevolent Association, slammed the panel on Friday, saying it was "bowing to the demands of anti-police, pro-criminal advocates."

The union, which has been fighting transparency efforts, said the recommendations lacked enhanced accountability for supervisors and did nothing to prevent meritless or fabricated complaints from "derailing cops' careers."

The panel, in a report on its findings, suggested that the department divulge annual disciplinary statistics and enlist a liaison to help police misconduct victims get access to case information.