Updated: October 15, 2016, 1:08 AM
BY JENNIFER FERMINO, CHRIS SOMMERFELDT, ROCCO PARASCANDOLA
|"We hope advocates for greater transparency will join us in the effort to reform this State law,” de Blasio said in a statement. (MARCUS SANTOS)|
Mr. Transparency is back.
Mayor de Blasio called on Albany to amend the state’s Civil Rights Law, allowing the outcome of disciplinary proceedings against officers to be made public.
“Without significant changes to this statute, the city remains barred from providing the transparency we deserve,” de Blasio said Friday.
Police Commissioner James O’Neill agreed. “I believe in transparency,” O’Neill said. “I also believe that making information about disciplinary proceedings public will help build trust in the community.”
The head of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association — the city’s biggest police union — immediately threw cold water on the idea. The Sergeants Benevolent Association vowed to fight it.
The Daily News reported exclusively in August that the NYPD had reversed a decades-old practice of making available to the media summaries of cases involving officers hit with departmental charges. Those cases can result in a plea bargain or an NYPD trial which usually lasts a day or two.
But the final dispositions are generally not known until months later — after the police commissioner acts on the findings made by the trials commissioner who presided over the cases.
The city and NYPD suddenly determined that the posting of results on a clipboard in Police Headquarters was in violation of section 50-A of the 1976 state Civil Rights Law. That means future high-profile departmental trials could end with secret dispositions. Officer Daniel Pantaleo will likely face departmental charges in the 2014 chokehold death of Eric Garner on Staten Island.
The changes proposed by de Blasio would require the NYPD to post on its website a full accounting of any disciplinary actions — the officers’ names, the charges filed, transcripts and exhibits from the hearings, the trial commissioner’s summary and decision, and the final finding by the police commissioner.
|"I believe in transparency,” O’Neill said in a statement. “I also believe that making information about disciplinary proceedings public will help us build trust with the community." (COREY SIPKIN/NEW YORK DAILY NEWS)|
Patrick Lynch, head of the PBA, said getting rid of 50-A or making significant changes “will put police officers at greater risk of the types of targeted attacks we have seen with increasing frequency.”
“It may also allow criminals to evade justice by turning criminal trials into smear campaigns against hardworking police officers, using issues that have little to do with the guilt or innocence of the accused,” he added.
Andrew Quinn, a lawyer for the sergeants union, said the SBA will lead a statewide effort to block the mayor’s proposal. He said the law was written to prevent minor police infractions from becoming “fodder for overly aggressive defense attorneys.”
“I can guarantee that this law will not be changed,” he said.
City firefighters and correction officers are also covered by 50-A.
Assemblyman Daniel O’Donnell (D-Manhattan) in January plans to introduce one bill modifying 50-A and another repealing it.
“If police records were accessible it would give the public greater assurance that law enforcement is being held to the highest standards of accountability,” he said.