As the collective conversation spurred by this month’s Black Lives Matter protests evolves, so does the public’s understanding of the legal mechanisms that keep officers who commit police brutality entrenched in the system. One of those laws, proponents of police reform maintain, is New York State’s Civil Rights Law 50-A, which has been used to keep police personnel files, including information about any misconduct, “confidential and not subject to inspection or review” by the public. New York legislators are reviewing a number of bills this week, including 50-A, and on Monday, hundreds of members of the music industry, including Rihanna, Billie Eilish, Ariana Grande, Justin Bieber, the Jonas Brothers, Lizzo, Meek Mill, Megan Thee Stallion, and Post Malone signed an open letter urging legislators to repeal the statute once and for all.
“We mourn the killing of George Floyd and the unnecessary loss of so many black lives before his. We must hold accountable those who violate the oath to protect and serve, and find justice for those who are victim to their violence,” their open letter reads. “An indispensable step is having access to disciplinary records of law enforcement officers. New York statute 50-A blocks that full transparency, shielding a history of police misconduct from public scrutiny, making it harder to seek justice and bring about reform. It must be repealed immediately.”
“We were pleased to hear the Governor’s statement that 50-A should not prohibit the release of disciplinary records,” it continues. “But, clearly, it is not enough. 50-A has been used far too often in the past and, without repeal, it will continue to be used to block justice. When the Legislature returns this week, we urge members to recognize the moment, take one loud, bold, and meaningful step in addressing this systemic problem, and swiftly repeal 50-A.” You can read their full petition here.