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Appeals Court OKs Release of NYC Police Discipline Records

February 16, 2021

NEW YORK — Many New York City police discipline records can be made public over the objections of unions, an appeals court ruled Tuesday.

The ruling by the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan upheld a decision last year by Judge Katherine Polk Failla.

Unions had opposed a new state transparency law on the grounds that it would unfairly taint the reputations of police officers, affecting their future employment. 

But the 2nd Circuit agreed with the lower-court judge, finding no evidence that job prospects for officers were harmed in numerous other states where similar records are available publicly.

Messages seeking comment were sent to lawyers in the case.

The Civilian Complaint Review Board, a watchdog agency, had sought to let the public search officer histories on its website.

Mayor Bill de Blasio had promised to post a database of misconduct complaints online as well.

The Police Benevolent Association, representing New York City police officers, and other public safety unions had challenged the disclosures, particularly those deemed unsubstantiated or unfounded and those in which officers were exonerated or a settlement was reached.

They argued that posting unproven or false complaints could spoil officers' reputations and compromise their safety while making it more difficult for them to find employment after their police careers had ended.

The controversy arose after New York lawmakers, reacting in part to protests over the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis and other police misconduct, repealed a law last year that for decades blocked the public disclosure of disciplinary records for police officers, as well as firefighters and correctional officers.

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