September 25, 2017


NYPD's Elastic Rationale


We have said in the past that we believed it was a mistake for the NYPD to insist that a section of state law that its legal staff belatedly discovered (40 years after it became effective) limited what information it could provide to reporters about internal disciplinary cases at a time when the department is trying to build closer relations with minority communities.

The problem was highlighted once again last week during the disciplinary trial of Officer James Frascatore, when the department opted to extend the protections of Section 50-a of the state Civil Rights Law to clear its Trial Room of reporters during the examination of a retired officer, Lieut. Daniel Modell, who was testifying in defense of Mr. Frascatore’s use of force in tackling ex-tennis star James Blake because he mistook him for a fraud suspect.

The NYPD at the time it invoked Section 50-a, while Bill Bratton was still Police Commissioner, said exposure of disciplinary actions taken against officers on trial could bring publicity that would harm their chances for advancement or favorable assignments. That rationale has no relevance in the case of a retired cop; the fact that he was believed to have had a peripheral role in the ticket-fixing scandal of a few years ago could, however, have some bearing on his credibility.

The NYPD’s credibility, however, doesn’t benefit from giving new elasticity to the law.