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March 25, 2019

Judge stops NYPD from putting police disciplinary summaries online

March 14, 2019
A judge agreed with the Police Benevolent Association President Pat Lynch’s demands to bar police officer disciplinary summaries from being put online. (Getty images)

A judge has blocked a push to put summaries of the NYPD’s misdeeds online.

New York State Supreme Court Judge Arthur Engoron has granted an injunction that will bar the release of Police Department disciplinary summaries on the internet.

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The city, NYPD and the Legal Aid Society had been hoping to release at least partial summaries of police discipline cases online in an attempt to be more transparent with the public.

The Police Benevolent Association, the city’s largest cop union, fought the push, claiming that it violates state Civil Rights Law 50-a, which bars law enforcement agencies from turning over police personnel records.

Engoron agreed, stating as he issued a temporary restraining order that the “city’s proposed action simply and clearly flies in the face of the law.

“(The summaries would) enable an agency to circumvent a host of statutory protections belonging to covered officers,” the judge said.

Engoron also agreed that “transparency of police personnel records is a sensible public policy.”

PBA President Pat Lynch said the decision “made it clear that the City and the NYPD cannot ignore the law protecting police officers’ confidential records whenever it is politically convenient for them.”

“Even partial personnel records can be used to harass police officers or derail criminal trials so that dangerous criminals walk free,” Lynch said. “We are glad that this court has adhered to that precedent. NYPD cannot trade away the civil rights of its own members.”

In a statement, the Legal Aid Society said the decision “makes it clear, once again, that 50-a must be repealed by the legislature in order for the public to access even the most basic information about police misconduct in New York State.”

In its attempt to give the public a glimpse into the disciplinary process, the city wanted to put out a compendium of “short, non-identifiable summaries of the outcomes of disciplinary trails of NYPD officers” that would “omit any information that would allow the public to identify the subject individual police officers.”

Since the compendium is not in itself a personnel record, the summaries would not violate 50-a. The PBA balked at the city’s logic, claiming that it wouldn’t take much for someone to identify a cop from the summaries.

“The NYPD’s plan to provide greater transparency is lawful, consistent with past court rulings, and in the public interest. The Department is reviewing its legal options,” an NYPD spokesman told the Daily News.

An email to the PBA regarding Judge Engoron’s decision were not immediately returned.

The PBA is currently fighting an attempt to release body camera footage of police engaging with the public. While the union lost an attempt to bar the release of the footage, they are appealing the decision with the state’s highest court.

Last week, the NYPD posted the department’s trial calendar on its website, although they can only put out the bare bones — the cop’s name and the date of the trial, not the charges the officer is facing.

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