ECC Campaign for Police Transparency & Legislative Equity
Fostering Young People's Civic Engagement for Social Equity
1. The Social Ramifications of NY State Law 50-a
Credit: Scott Heins/Getty Images
New York State Law 50-a is a part of the New York Civil Rights Law that regards police officers' “personnel records” as “confidential and not subject to inspection or review” without the officer’s permission. Though passed in the 1970s with the intension of protecting "officers who testified in court," 50-a has become "one of the strongest police secrecy laws " in the United States. For decades, this law has been utilized to enable members of the police and their departments to avoid public scrutiny when accused of misconduct, exempting officers from transparency standards applied to other public officials.
The consequent lack of accountability and transparency have been felt disproportionally by minorities, such as African-Americans. Eric Gardner, an unarmed African-American, died after a New York police officer, put him in a chokehold while arresting him; this officer already had 4 substantiated allegations of abuse against him prior to this tragedy. The general public only learned of these complaints after they were leaked. Ramarley Graham, an 18-year-old unarmed African-American, was fatally shot in his own home by a New York police officer. Leaked police records later revealed that this officer, Richard Haste, had an unusually high number of complaints against him.
2. ECC Campaign to End 50-a by Fostering Young People's Civic Engagement