February 16, 2021, New York– Today, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals denied the New York City police unions’ (along with corrections and fire unions’) attempt to stop the City of New York from releasing officer misconduct and discipline records to the public following the June 2020 repeal of the police secrecy law 50-a by the New York State Legislature.
Last summer, the police unions attempted to use the courts to stop New York City from releasing discipline and misconduct records, following the repeal of 50-a. Communities United for Police Reform intervened in the case to ensure that communities, families whose loved ones were killed by the NYPD, and the public will, were adequately represented. Now, the Second Circuit Court affirmed a previous district court’s decision that police misconduct and disciplinary records should be made public.
The following are statements from Communities United for Police Reform (CPR), and CPR’s legal team: the Center for Constitutional Rights and Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe.
Joo-Hyun Kang (she/her), Director of Communities United for Police Reform: “Police unions have been trying to undermine and overturn the legislature and the public will that led to the repeal of 50-a because they want to preserve police impunity and shield abusive officers from consequences. Today’s decision from the Second Circuit affirms that the public has the right to know when police brutalize or sexually harass New Yorkers and escape discipline, in spite of police unions’ baseless claims and fearmongering.
“As the decision states, the police unions cannot ‘bargain their disclosures away’, and City officials should take note that the NYC government can’t bargain away New Yorkers’ right to information in private contract negotiations. It’s critical that CPR intervened in this litigation because the City was willing to let police unions bargain against public transparency behind closed doors. We’re pleased with the court’s decision to stop the unions’ attempted rollback of the repeal of 50-a and are calling on the de Blasio administration to immediately publish the police misconduct database they announced and release all police misconduct and discipline information that New Yorkers have been rightfully demanding since the repeal of 50-a last summer.”
Baher Azmy, Legal Director of the Center for Constitutional Rights: "This decision should conclusively end the police unions' latest attempt to shield their misconduct from public view and give force to the community's long-standing demands for transparency and accountability."
Tiffany Wright, Adjunct Professor at Howard University School of Law: “This is a huge win for transparency and for the communities across New York who bear the brunt of police violence and misconduct. Those communities have a right to know the disciplinary histories of those policing their streets, and now they will.”
Chris Cariello, Attorney at Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP: “Not only did the Second Circuit hold that current law guarantees full public access to misconduct and disciplinary records, it also unequivocally held that the City and the unions can’t contract around that law in future collective bargaining agreements. Under this ruling, the transparency the legislature intended, and the community so plainly deserves, is here to stay.”
Learn more about the case on the Center for Constitutional Rights case page.
About Communities United for Police Reform
Communities United for Police Reform (CPR) is an unprecedented campaign to end abusive and discriminatory policing practices in New York, and to build a lasting movement that promotes public safety and reduces reliance on policing. CPR runs coalitions of over 200 local, statewide and national organizations, bringing together a movement of community members, lawyers, researchers and activists to work for change. The partners in this campaign come from all 5 boroughs, from all walks of life and represent many of those most unfairly targeted by the NYPD.
About Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP
Orrick’s pro bono program has been praised for the dedication of its lawyers to supporting diverse causes with tangible results—including high-profile immigration disputes, civil rights litigation and grassroots global development through an innovative impact finance and social enterprise initiative. Orrick strategically allocates its pro bono resources to ensure that each lawyer’s work has the maximum impact for the client and the community.
The Center for Constitutional Rights works with communities under threat to fight for justice and liberation through litigation, advocacy, and strategic communications. Since 1966, the Center for Constitutional Rights has taken on oppressive systems of power, including structural racism, gender oppression, economic inequity, and governmental overreach. Learn more at ccrjustice.org.