New York repeals decades-old law that shields police

The measure to make officers' records and misconduct complaints public is among several police accountability bills racing through the state legislature. Others would provide all state troopers with body cameras and ensure that police officers provide medical and mental health attention to people in custody

AgenciesUpdated: Thursday, June 11, 2020, 12:28 AM IST
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Vigil for George Floyd in Rome. | PIC: AFP

New York state lawmakers repealed a decades-old law Tuesday that has kept law enforcement officers' disciplinary records secret, spurred by the national uproar over the death of George Floyd.

The measure to make officers' records and misconduct complaints public is among several police accountability bills racing through the state legislature. Others would provide all state troopers with body cameras and ensure that police officers provide medical and mental health attention to people in custody.

Many of those bills were first proposed years ago, but got new momentum after huge protests nationwide condemned police brutality.

The passage came as criminal charges were brought Tuesday against an NYPD officer over his rough treatment of a protester during demonstrations following the death of Floyd, who pleaded he couldn't breathe as a white Minneapolis police officer pressed a knee on his neck May 25.

Eliminating the law, known as Section 50-a, would make complaints against officers, as well as transcripts and final dispositions of disciplinary proceedings, public for the first time in decades.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who has recently supported reforming the law, has said in the wake of the protests that he will sign the repeal. Only Delaware has a similar law.

Momentum for ending the secrecy law reached a crescendo in recent days as marchers filled streets in Brooklyn, Manhattan and elsewhere to rally against police abuses - amplifying the calls of reform advocates who spent years pushing for change in the wake of other high-profile police killings, including that of Eric Garner in 2014.

"This is no time for rejoicing," said State Senator Kevin Parker, a Democrat representing parts of Brooklyn.

"This bill has been around for over a decade . And the only reason why we're bringing it to the floor now because the nation is burning." The legislature on Monday passed other police accountability measures, banning police from using chokeholds, guaranteeing the right to record police activity and making it easier to file lawsuits against people making race-based 911 calls.

The Minneapolis Police Department will withdraw from police union contract negotiations, Chief Medaria Arradondo said Wednesday in announcing the first steps in what he said would be transformational reforms to the agency in the wake of George Floyd's death.

Meanwhile, A sheriff's deputy was wounded Wednesday while responding to a report that a gunman was firing shots at a central California police station, authorities said.

The shooter remained on the loose and a search was underway in the downtown area of the city of Paso Robles, said Tony Cipolla, spokesman for the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff's Department. People in the area were urged to shelter in place.

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