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What Is Civil Rights Law 50-a in New York?

On Behalf of | Jul 31, 2019 | Civil Service Employees |

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Federal and state governments operate on complex set laws, rules, policies and procedures, some of which go back to even before the country’s birth. One of these laws in New York is the Freedom of Information Law. This law is intended to provide the public with access to information regarding the goings-on in government. In enacting this law, the New York Legislature declared that government is “the public’s business and that the public, individually and collectively and represented by a free press, should have access to the records of government” as provided under the law.

Getting Access to Government Information and Exceptions to Freedom of Information Law

Freedom of information laws such as these are designed give the public access to information about what the government has done or is doing through its actors and agents. However, all manner of restrictions and exceptions by the affected agencies can make it almost impossible for the average citizen to know what happened or what is going on. Restrictions may apply for a variety of reasons, including national security and personal privacy concerns.

Civil Law 50-a is a section of the New York Civil Rights Law that puts restrictions on releasing to the public certain information deemed to be “personal records” of police officers, firefighters, and corrections officers. This information is precluded from release to the public on the basis it is confidential and therefore “not subject to inspection or review” without the affected officer’s permission.

Rationale Behind Civil Rights Law 50-a

This 50-a law was enacted in 1976 to initially protect officers who testified in court and to prevent “harassment” by criminal defense attorneys. However, critics say the law has been stretched over the years to include investigations and information pertaining to police investigations, misconduct, and discipline. Those who defend the law and its expanded use insist this is necessary to keep individual police officers safe.

Because of this expanded use of 50-a and its success in preventing public access to investigative and other police records, there has been a concerted effort by activists and media outlets to have this law repealed. However, groups representing police and correctional officers have been vocal in their opposition to these repeal efforts. These groups and their leaders argue that repealing the law would endanger police officers by making their personal information too easily accessible.

NYC Lawyer for Criminal and Civil Service Job Defense

At JOEY JACKSON LAW, PLLC, we have experience in handling all issues related to police and other first responders, includuing investigations, allegations or disciplinary proceedings and appeals. We are here to help you fight back. For resolution of your issues or counsel on the best way forward, contact an experienced New York labor and employment law attorney  at 833-JOEYJACKSON or 833-563-9522. We are fully prepared to mount an aggressive defense to protect your legal rights. We handle civil service employment cases in the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, and Manhattan, as well as in Nassau, Suffolk, and Westchester Counties. We stand up for you.