Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Monday backed a push to authorize a state law to release police officers’ moral files – saying police should be treated like other government employees and that its records are open to public scrutiny.
Cuomo said Monday that he and the Legislature would “reverse an exemption,” which protects disciplinary records of police officers under investigation for misconduct.
Powerful police unions in New York prevented action in Albany over such a law – but it was preceded by mass protests and outrage over the police brutality case in Minneapolis, where George Floyd was killed by a policeman with a knee tied to his neck.
Cuomo said, “It’s about fairness and equality in the group,” noting that the disciplinary record of teachers and other public employees is publicly accessible.
Sockholds will be banned from the criminal justice system that will be signed into law after this week’s legislative session, following the Amy Cooper scandal in Central Park, is a criminal offense, and the State Attorney General is investigating the death of a suspect in police custody codifying cases. Five years ago the governor approved an executive order for the state attorney general to pursue such cases.
The governor said during his Corona virus press conference at his Manhattan office, “The protesters are basically saying that … it’s enough.
Asked why he hadn’t changed the 50-A law in the past, Cuomo said his office had issued a legal opinion to New York City and other local governments.
“Do I think 50-A is a straw man for local governments? Well, attack it as a straw man,” he said.
He said this was a moment in history where police and criminal justice reforms could take place.
“Now is the time,” Cuomo said. “The carb is driving.”
State legislative leaders said they would move police accountability bills faster.
“Black New Yorkers, like all residents of this state, deserve to know that their rights and lives are respected and protected by our justice system,” said State Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart Cousins.
“The legislation that will be passed in the coming days will help stop bad actors and send a clear message that brutality, racism and unjust killings will not be tolerated,” he said.
Assembly Majority Leader Crystal People Stokes (D-Buffalo) said the accountability measures did not mean lawmakers were “anti-police.”
“We are the worst anti-police. We understand law enforcement is not easy. But being black and brown in this country is not easy for you,” he said.