With mounting tensions between law enforcement and the people they serve, people in New York are asking for more transparency between the police and the public. Mayor De Blasio ran on a forum of more transparency when campaigning for election, but those in his district believe that when it comes to law enforcement, he has fallen short. At issue is the statute of 50-a, which disallows the release of disciplinary action against police officers to be made public.
The disciplinary actions taken against police officers has, for forty years, been unavailable. Although the mayor challenged it, proclaiming that the public interest was disserviced by not being allowed to see the records of prior police misconduct, he fell short on doing anything to change the statute.
The section of the code, specifically 50-a, has been a huge source of contention. Being thrust back into the spotlight recently when Eric Garner, an officer who had a prior history of disciplinary actions taken against him, killed a citizen by fatally choking him. Civil rights groups and reporters alike, have repeatedly asked for information about police’s previous disciplinary actions and have not been given the information they seek about the misconduct of corrections officers and the police.
The mayor maintains that his intention is to provide a more transparent relationship between law enforcement and the public and that withholding disciplinary history is a violation of citizen’s rights. His aim is to transform the state law and make prior history available. It is not the city that is opposed to giving out the information, rather the unions that represent uniformed workers.
The unions, created to protect the men in blue, are the largest advocates trying to make sure that prior disciplinary actions taken against any police officer, be kept private. Fighting against civil rights advocates and community leaders alike, they are holding fast to ensuring that the police’s records be kept private from the public.
Many, who supported the De Blasio campaign are disillusioned that he has not pushed harder, or stood up to the unions and challenged section 50-a with more fervor. There is speculation that those who campaigned hard for him and expected an atmosphere with more transparency, may think twice about his run next time around if he doesn’t do more to revamp the statutes currently on the books.
Christopher Dunn, associate legal director for the New York Civil Liberties Union, believes that what De Blasio is doing, in asking for reform, not demanding it, is not enough to create change in a growing distrust between law enforcement and the public. Dunn insists that the New York State Legislature is not doing enough to force unions to provide information that the public has the right to.
De Blasio may have a problem in 2017 convincing those who elected him before on a platform of police reform, that he intends to create real change. His actions, to date, may have his predominantly African American supporters turn to another candidate who will put more force behind true police reform.
A personal injury attorney Houston TX dictates that the law that protects the disciplinary history of law enforcement has been on the books for nearly forty years. It not only includes police officers, but also firefighters. The statute states that those things that are within a policeman or firefighters’ files are there strictly for use in performance and employment reviews and are not privy to the public.
Many believe that if the disciplinary history of Garner were known to the right people ahead of time, there would be one less fatality at the hands of law enforcement. De Blasio seeks to eliminate the confidentiality protections afforded by the statute and to make any police officer who is prosecuted by the Civilian Complaint Review Board’s proceedings, actions available to public scrutiny. That includes the officer’s name and charges against him to be made, a public record.
With growing violence against police in America, many see, publishing names as a potentially dangerous situation. It could leave police officers open to being targeted. Proponents to overturning the protections afforded believe that making it public could put police officers in jeopardy. Those for more transparency between law enforcement and private citizens, however, believe that it will create more trust between the two parties and help to ease tensions.
There is no argument that De Blasio has made significant changes as mayor in just one term, but will those changes be enough for him to keep his position? Likely, if more police reform is not initiated, he will be more vulnerable in 2017.