New York legislature votes to discard police discipline secrecy law

New York City governor, Andrew Cuomo
Emeh Joy

New York lawmakers on Tuesday had voted to scrap a 10-year old law that protects police officers' disciplinary records from the public.

New York Governor, Andrew Cuomo who spoke via a tweet which he posted on Twitter, said that he would sign the bill into law this week amid the ongoing nationwide protests against police brutality.

The bill to be signed into law is part of a package of police reform measures which have been put forward by the Assembly which is primarily controlled by the democrats and the Senate in Albany this week. It came following protests that have gone nationwide in the U.S. after the death of George Floyd, a black man who died as a result of a white former Minneapolis police officer kneeling on his neck for minutes.

The legislature on Monday voted to ban the use of chokeholds by police. The practice has been under intense scrutiny and was first condemned when a new York City police officer used the chokehold on Eric Garner in 2014, thus, killing him in the process.

People have long been pushing for police accountability, and advocates for it have been pushing for the annulment of the contentious section of the New York's Civil Rights Law, 50-a, which prevents the disclosure of disciplinary records of police officers to the public.

The New York Senate majority leader, Andrea Stewart-Cousins spoke via a statement saying, "The legislation that will be passed over the coming days will help stop bad actors and send a clear message that brutality, racism and unjustified killings will not be tolerated".

New York police unions have said the legislation is an attack on police.

Richard Wells, president of the statewide union the Police Conference of New York said to news reporters, "The message has been sent very clearly to police officers by our elected officials: We don't like you, we don't respect you. We don't support you. We want you to go away".

He said repealing the 50-a would enable defence attorneys to cite old complaints against an officer in court to undermine the officer's testimony.

The New York City council was also giving thoughts to a bill to criminalize the use of chokeholds which has widespread support among lawmakers but is opposed in its current form by the mayor.

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