By MARIE FIERO
Mothers of men killed by police, including Eric Garner’s mother, on Thursday supported the repeal of that cloaks officers’ personnel records from the public at a New York State Senate meeting.
Critics contended before the Senate Committee on Codes that the law was often used to stifle prosecutions of rogue cops by keeping secret past misconduct and disciplinary action.
“We don’t even know the names of most of the officers that were there that day,” said Gwen Carr, referring to the day her son Eric Garner died after a police officer put him in an illegal chokehold in Staten Island in July, 2014, a case that helped spark the Back Lives Matter movement. Many civil rights groups testified that an officer’s misconduct should be public knowledge.
Carr was flanked by Valerie Bell, whose son Sean Bell was shot 50 times by plainclothes police officers in 2006; and Constance Malcolm, whose son, Delrawn Small, was killed by an off-duty police officer in 2016. They all asked the commmittee to repeal the law when the senate begins its new session in January.
“We want to make sure the good officer is being recognized, and the bad is put out,” said Malcolm. Those in favor of the repeal repeatedly stated that they weren’t trying to bash police officers, just that they felt that the law was unfair.
Representatives of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association and the Corrections Officers Benevolent Association argued against a potential repeal. They argued that not protecting the personal information of police officers, corrections officers, and firefighters might prompt false claims against them and even endanger their lives
“Cops that do their jobs always get complaints,” said Lou Matarazzo, former head of PBA. Many in the crowd booed, and some held signs that read “PBA Lies.”
There were no New York Police Department officials at the meeting but the department is on the record supporting the repeal.
“This is about transparency,” New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams said multiple times during his testimony. He supports a full repeal of 50-a.
Several representatives from groups like the New York Civil Liberties Union and the New York Law School Racial Justice Project explained that in New York the Freedom Of Information Law, or FOIL, prevents personal information (like an officer’s home address, for example) from being released to the public.