Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Hiding The Names Of Police Officers Who Have Been Disciplined

 From Betsy Combier, Editor:

REPEAL Civil Rights Law Section 50-a!

Audra Harmon was tasered by an Onondaga County sheriff's deputy near her home in Salina on Jan. 31. The deputy, Sean Andrews, is shown in his cruiser's dashboard camera videotape pulling her from her van then shooting her with his taser. Sheriff Kevin Walsh said the law allows him to say the deputy was suspended, but he can't give the final outcome of the deputy's discipline.
Published: Sunday, November 08, 2009, 9:35 AM     Updated: Sunday, November 08, 2009, 10:00 AM
 A city police cruiser hits a man on a bicycle as they both run stop signs at a Syracuse intersection.
Will the officer be disciplined? You might never know.
The police officer assigned as a driver for the Syracuse mayor retires after being named in a federal investigation.
What did he do? Again, you might never know.
An inmate commits suicide in the Public Safety Building.
Action is taken against a pair of deputies who apparently failed to watch him properly. But their names won’t be released.
A state law — Civil Rights Law 50-a — keeps private the personnel records of police officers, firefighters and corrections officers.
Records that are used to evaluate performance toward continued employment or promotion are confidential and viewable only through a court order, according to the law. That includes cases of misconduct.
The discipline of a judge is public record, as are sanctions against a doctor or a teacher, said Robert J. Freeman, executive director of the New York State Committee on Open Government. Most municipal employees have no right to keep any disciplinary action against them from the public eye, he said.
But police officers, deputies and jailers may be reprimanded for misconduct and never have those sanctions made public.
“I feel it represents the worst in public policy,” Freeman said. “How could it be that those in government with the most power over our lives have the least accountability?”
Civil Rights Law 50-a has been on the books since 1976. The point behind it is to avoid a situation in which a police officer is called to testify in court and might be embarrassed by a lawyer bringing up reprimands in his personnel records, Freeman said.
The law blocks citizens from finding out the names of reprimanded officers, how many times an officer has been reprimanded, the rules or laws broken and the number of reprimands an officer may have received.
“There have been innumerable situations over the years (in the state) in which misconduct has been obvious but the public has never found out the result,” Freeman said. “The removal of the barrier would enhance the perception of police departments.”
In the dark

Three recent examples of how Civil Rights Law 50-a keeps quiet disciplinary action against police officers:

Aug. 1  Syracuse police Officer James E. “Jake” Jackowski, 60, is forced to retire from the police department after becoming part of a federal investigation. Jackowski was head of security at City Hall and served as the mayor’s chauffeur and body guard. Officials at the city, county and federal levels decline to discuss what Jackowski did to get into trouble, citing Civil Rights Law 50-a. 

Aug. 4  Syracuse police Sgt. Joel Cordone runs a stop sign and strikes a bicyclist who also runs a stop sign at Danforth and North State streets. Police cite Civil Rights Law 50-a in declining to release any information on discipline Cordone may face following an investigation into the crash. 

Nov. 2, 2008 — Onondaga County inmate Michael Tew is found dead after hanging himself in a jail cell. Despite mandatory half-hour checks by jail personnel on inmates, Tew is not found until four to five hours after his death, a state investigation determines. Two deputies are cited, by their initials, in the report. One is suspended, the other retrained. Sheriff Kevin Walsh cites Civil Rights Law 50-a in refusing to identify either deputy.
Why are firefighters and corrections officers included with the police?
“The state Legislature absolutely failed to distinguish between these public employees,” Freeman said. “You don’t have these issues with firefighters or correctional officers.”
Onondaga County Sheriff Kevin Walsh said he fears disclosure of officers’ reprimands “could somewhat diminish the ability to exercise their authority on the street.”
Knowledge of a specific allegation and reprimand against a deputy could bring similar claims and lawsuits against the deputy, Walsh said. He also sees the likelihood of “taunting behavior” leveled at a deputy on the streets.
Walsh added, however, that nondisclosure also may weaken public confidence that police are policing themselves.
“If the law wasn’t there, it would be easier to assure the public we are doing the things we have to do when a disciplinary situation arises,” said Walsh, an elected official.
Walsh said the law allows him to say the deputy was suspended, but he can’t give the final outcome of the deputy’s discipline.
“The decision will probably be put to an arbitrator,” Walsh said.
If it is, Walsh won’t be allowed to talk about what the arbitrator decides. If the 30-day suspension is upheld by the arbitrator, he won’t be able to discuss it.
“A suspension isn’t disciplinary until it has been approved by an arbitrator,” Walsh said.
Walsh makes the distinction because 30 days without pay is the strongest discipline he can impose without automatic arbitration. In some cases, Walsh seeks a higher sanction, such as termination or loss of rank, on top of the 30-day suspension. Union contracts require arbitration in heavier penalties.
In response to a Post-Standard Freedom of Information request seeking the names of disciplined deputies, the infractions and the discipline from Jan. 1, 2008, to June 1, 2009, the Onondaga County Sheriff’s Office sent a list of 24 cases, ranging from failing to follow work rules to insubordination. But thanks to law 50-a, no names.
Most of the 24 cases involve punishments ranging from written reprimand to seven-day suspensions. Two deputies received 30-day suspensions, one received a 15-day suspension and two retired before disciplinary action.
“It doesn’t prohibit us from exacting the punishment needed. It does prohibit us from sharing with people what happened in their case,” Walsh said.
“Sometimes these punishments are harsher than fines in a criminal court,” Walsh said.
Reprimanded deputies may face suspension, loss of pay and retraining.
When a city police officer is charged with a crime, that crime and its punishment are public information, Syracuse Police Chief Gary Miguel said. When it comes to reprimands that are not related to criminal conduct, the law says that they should remain private, he said.
Without the restriction, Miguel said, “the media would then go into every aspect of (an officer’s) personnel folder.”
“Where do you draw the line?” he said.
For better or worse, the public is left to wonder about the outcomes of noncriminal investigations involving police.
“I can state an internal investigation has taken place,” Miguel said.
He won’t be able to say what the investigation revealed, or what, if any, punishment was received.
--Robert A. Baker can be reached at rbaker@syracuse.com or 470-2182.
Civil Rights Law 50-a

 §  50-a.  Personnel  records  of  police  officers,  firefighters  and
  correction  officers.  1.  All  personnel  records  used   to   evaluate
  performance  toward continued employment or promotion, under the control
  of any police agency  or  department  of  the  state  or  any  political
  subdivision thereof including authorities or agencies maintaining police
  forces  of individuals defined as police officers in section 1.20 of the
  criminal procedure law and such personnel records under the control of a
  sheriff's department  or  a  department  of  correction  of  individuals
  employed  as  correction  officers  and such personnel records under the
  control of a paid fire department or force of  individuals  employed  as
  firefighters  or firefighter/paramedics and such personnel records under
  the control of the department of corrections and  community  supervision
  for  individuals  defined  as  peace  officers  pursuant to subdivisions
  twenty-three  and  twenty-three-a  of  section  2.10  of  the   criminal
  procedure  law  shall  be  considered  confidential  and  not subject to
  inspection or review without the express written consent of such  police
  officer, firefighter, firefighter/paramedic, correction officer or peace
  officer  within  the department of corrections and community supervision
  except as may be mandated by lawful court order.
    2. Prior to issuing such court order the judge must  review  all  such
  requests  and  give  interested  parties the opportunity to be heard. No
  such order shall issue without a clear showing of  facts  sufficient  to
  warrant the judge to request records for review.
    3.  If,  after such hearing, the judge concludes there is a sufficient
  basis he shall sign an order requiring that  the  personnel  records  in
  question  be  sealed  and sent directly to him. He shall then review the
  file and make a determination as to whether the records are relevant and
  material in the action before him. Upon such a finding the  court  shall
  make  those  parts  of  the  record  found  to  be relevant and material
  available to the persons so requesting.
    4. The provisions of this section shall  not  apply  to  any  district
  attorney  or  his  assistants,  the  attorney general or his deputies or
  assistants,  a  county  attorney  or  his  deputies  or  assistants,   a
  corporation  counsel  or  his deputies or assistants, a town attorney or
  his deputies or assistants,  a  village  attorney  or  his  deputies  or
  assistants, a grand jury, or any agency of government which requires the
  records  described  in  subdivision  one,  in  the  furtherance of their
  official functions.


  1. David Sturtz, was a Onondaga County sheriff, Now he is a Liverpool partrolman, Why?

  2. The Syracuse City School District, Dr. Weeks, Franklin Elementary and Lemoyne Elementary schools retaliated after my complaints I filed against them for the mistreated, neglect & assault of my oldest daughter. The school & district made false claims which lead to my kids being unlawfully siezured & detained by the department of children & family services on 06-21-2016 & that case(s) NN5875-15, NN5876-15 & FILE NO.13079 I was acquitted on 10-20-2016 but the judge Michael L Hanuszczak & the county resiezured my kids that same day unlawfully for 24 hours and returned my kids 10-21-2016. My appeal of this case was accepted-case No. CAF-16-01134 and I got notice on 07/17/2017 and the JUDGE HANUSZCZAK & entire court & opposing party has acted out hostile against my kids & I again and 8 days after my appeal's approval on 07/25/2017 my kids were takened and I was arrested for 24 hours. In the criminal court the judge Andrews attempted to speak harshly towards about these unproven claims of violating an order of protection and I challenged the court's jurisdiction and demanded the evidence and the entire court committed perjury & fraud on the record by claiming they had evidence of the warrants and orders of protections to remove my kids & arrest me. My pretrial release attorney tried to aid and abett this corruption as well as the Court secretary who spoke on the record after the District Attorney & court were silent when asked for proof of evidrnce against me and the court clerk/ Secretary said she had the copies of the warrants & orders of protections & she printed out documents & she handed over documents to the judge & court & I saw the forms my pretrial release attorney had & he tried to allow these fake papers so I spoke up & stated on the record "Fraud, Fraud" and the judge looked angry and said he was prepared to free me, I requested the juridstiction,
    Bond, & dismissal and was ignored but I was released to pretrial release & under duress, coercement, fraud & threat I agreed to be under the supervision of a probation & pretrial release representative Kelly Lusty. I asked for copies of those fraudulent papers as I left out from the court & my pretrial attorney & court denied me a copy and my assigned counsel Daniel Petrone informed me of new fraudulent charges on 08-02-17 and the documents the court was trying to enforce had a expiration date of 4/2017 & I was acquitted on 10/20/2016 & my kids were resiezured on 07/25/2017 & I was arrested on 07/25/2017 at around 8:30pm police officer Christou came through my window and damaged my air condtioner, couch, wall jack & left a pellet hole in my religious room window & unlawfully searched my home & had no warrant, jurisdiction, witness, injured party, probably cause or any evidence a crime even occurred.This is a hate crime fueled in discrimination, retaliation and lawlessness. I urge You who oversee this county to oversee this matter & case 17-383263 immediately, as time is of the essence. I filed federal suits against the entire court & the judge & court refused to recuse himself and are still acting irrate against My kids & I. My kids and I are being harassed, stalked, defamed, violated civilly & criminally, terrorized, abused, targeted & discriminated against. Their oath of office is breached & the supremacy clause of article 6 of the US CONSTITUTION.