Mayor unveils new police transparency reforms

Prayerful Protest, Black Lives Matter
NYPD officers stand by as thousands protest in front of them at the Barclays Center on June 2.
Photo by Paul Frangipane

On the heels of mass protests and the recent repeal of the state’s police secrecy law, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a set of new police reforms on June 17 which aim to increase transparency within the city’s Police Department.

The NYPD will soon be required to provide disciplinary records of active police officers in a publicly available online database — something that would have been impossible under 50-a, the law that long-shielded those records from the public, Hizzoner said Wednesday.

“Transparency is not something to fear but something to embrace,” de Blasio said during a virtual press conference.

The NYPD will also be required to publish all internal trial decisions as well as the information for approximately 1,100 pending internal cases — including the names of officers involved, the charges they face, their hearing dates, and the resolution, the mayor said.

De Blasio also announced a series of internal disciplinary reforms that aim to speed up the process by which police officers face repercussions for unsatisfactory interactions with the public. One new standard will require the police commissioner to make a decision on whether an officer will receive a suspension or be placed on modified duty within 48 hours of an incident coming to light. The department’s Internal Affairs Bureau will also be required to complete its investigations within two weeks or less.

“People deserve to know that if an officer has done something wrong that the action involving their immediate status is very quick, and that the decision about whether there will be further disciplinary action happens in a meaningful timeframe.” the mayor said. 

Still, City Comptroller Scott Stringer criticized the mayor’s plan for an online database as having too loose of a timeline, and called on the City Council to enact legislation that would fast-track the creation of the database. 

“The details and timeline of the mayor’s proposed online database are unclear,” said Stringer, a mayoral candidate. “The council should swiftly pass legislation that requires the NYPD to publicly report disciplinary records on an online database and to make clear that such records are not subject to Freedom of Information Law requests.”

The Legal Aid Society called the move a good first step, but pushed for more sweeping reforms to be taken with more urgency. 

“This news should not detract from the need for the city to reduce the NYPD’s headcount and budget by at least $1 Billion and to use those funds to invest in communities hardest hit by over-policing and COVID-19,” said Tina Luongo, Attorney in Charge of the society’s Criminal Defense Practice. 

The new guidelines come after a number of police officers have faced disciplinary action and even arrest due to their interactions with Black Lives Matter protesters in Brooklyn and across the city in recent weeks. One officer, Vincent D’Andraia from Brownsville’s 73rd Precinct, faces criminal charges of assault after he shoved a 20-year-old protester to the ground unprovoked, resulting in the girl having a seizure. Another officer, whose name has not been released, was suspended without pay for pulling down the face mask of a protester who had his hands up and macing him.