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Judge lifts ban on NYCLU releasing police discipline records

July 29, 2020 Associated Press
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Reversing her initial ruling, a federal judge cleared the way Tuesday for a civil rights organization to provide the public with disciplinary records it obtained from New York City’s police watchdog agency.

Judge Katherine Polk Failla said the new ruling pertaining to the state’s chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union will take effect Wednesday afternoon, giving public safety unions challenging the release of such records 24 hours to appeal.

Failla had halted the release of disciplinary records last week after the unions sued to block Mayor Bill de Blasio from taking advantage of a recent change in state law allowing the state to begin posting misconduct complaints on a government website.

“We’re pleased with today’s ruling and plan to release the information we have as soon as the 24-hour stay expires,” NYCLU legal director Christopher Dunn said. “The database will reveal a wide swath of information about police misconduct at a moment when the nation is debating police accountability.”

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Failla had also barred the NYCLU from publicly releasing records it obtained from the city’s Civilian Complaint Review Board because she suspected the organization had been “acting in concert” with city government.

In revising her decision Tuesday, Failla said it was impossible for her to reach back and prevent the release of records that the NYCLU received before the unions filed their lawsuit on July 15. She faulted the unions for not suing sooner.

A message seeking comment was left with a spokesperson for the unions. In their lawsuit, the unions argue that allowing the public to see unproven or false complaints could sully officers’ reputations and compromise their safety.

Scores of disciplinary records have already reached public view since the repeal last month of a law that had kept them secret for decades.

ProPublica on Sunday published a database containing complaint information for thousands of officers, while news outlets including The Associated Press have published numerous stories based on newly public disciplinary documents.

The rest of Failla’s temporary restraining order, halting the CCRB and police department’s disclosure of disciplinary records, is likely to remain at least until an Aug. 18 hearing in the union case.

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