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More than 100 groups urge New York Governor to Create Public Misconduct Database for Corrections Officers

August 26, 2020

The Honorable Andrew M. Cuomo
Governor of New York State
N.Y.S. State Capitol Building
Albany, NY 12224

Acting Commissioner Anthony J. Annucci
New York Department of Corrections and Community Supervision
Building Two
1220 Washington Ave
Albany, New York 12226-2050

Re:    Publication of DOCCS Corrections Officer Misconduct Records Following Section 50-a Repeal       

Dear Governor Cuomo and Commissioner Annucci,

As civil and human rights organizations, community-based groups, public defenders and others across the state, we celebrated the repeal of 50-a of New York’s Civil Rights Law. This repeal was a critical step in lifting the veil of secrecy surrounding the institutionalized violence against Black, brown, and other marginalized persons by the criminal legal system. It brings New York in line with the 48 other states that do not keep such records secret and represents an important initial step towards fulfillment of your promise to lead “the most transparent administration in history.” It will provide incarcerated people access to fundamental facts about the injustices perpetrated against them, and provide the community with a tool for change.

This is why we also urge you to meet this commitment to transparency by issuing an executive order requiring the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (“DOCCS”) to create and maintain a database of corrections officer misconduct and disciplinary records online, freely available to the public by September 15, 2020. This database must include all “law enforcement disciplinary records” as defined by the amended Public Officer’s Law[1] as well as information about lawsuits relating to DOCCS staff misconduct within state prisons and must be updated every month with all qualifying documents. As you likely know, Mayor Bill de Blasio recently indicated that his administration would do the same for corrections officers employed by New York City’s Department of Correction (“DOC”).

Brutality against incarcerated people at the hands of DOCCS officers has been rampant for many years. Serious staff misconduct in DOCCS facilities -- widely reported by the New York Times, New York Daily News, and many other outlets -- includes assaults by staff such as the beating of Kevin Moore, who suffered facial fractures, five broken ribs, and a collapsed lung and the beating of Samuel Harrell, who died from his injuries. These well-known brutality incidents are not deviations from the norm, but rather examples of events that happen on a too-frequent basis throughout the New York State prison system.

The overwhelming vote to repeal 50-a in the wake of the protests resulting from the murder of George Floyd should be considered a public mandate to bring to light not only information about police, but also information about law enforcement officers who operate outside of the public view and carry out similar patterns of institutionalized violence. The impunity for this culture of violence in our prisons rests on secrecy. Accountability starts with public access to the information about the injustices perpetrated in DOCCS facilities.

The repeal of 50-a was necessary, but not sufficient to hold law enforcement accountable. To ensure misconduct records do not continue to be shielded by the denials and delays that plague Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) requests, it is critical that you affirmatively publish disciplinary records of DOCCS staff.

Signed,

  1. Amnesty International USA
  2. Anti Torture Initiative Project
  3. Appellate Advocates
  4. Asociación de Mujeres Progresistas Inc.
  5. Bend the Arc: Jewish Action Long Island
  6. Black and Pink NYC
  7. Black Lives Matter (BLM) Hudson Valley
  8. Bronx Climate Justice North
  9. The Bronx Defenders
  10. Brooklyn Defender Services
  11. Buffalo Mutual Aid Network
  12. Call BlackLine
  13. Center for Community Alternatives
  14. Center for Law and Justice
  15. Center on Race, Inequality, and the Law at New York University School of Law
  16. Citizen Action of New York
  17. Citizen Action WNY
  18. Close Rosie's
  19. Color Of Change
  20. Congregation Beit Simchat Torah
  21. Congregation Beth Elohim Dismantling Racism Team
  22. Correctional Association
  23. Emergency Release Fund
  24. Erie County Restorative Justice Coalition, Inc.
  25. Exodus Transitional Community
  26. First Unitarian Church of Rochester
  27. Free the People WNY
  28. The Gathering for Justice
  29. Housing Works
  30. Human Rights Watch
  31. Humanists of Long Island
  32. Immigrant Defense Project
  33. Incarcerated Nation Network,inc
  34. Jim Owles Liberal Democratic Club
  35. John Brown Lives!
  36. John Jay College Institute for Justice and Opportunity
  37. Judson Memorial Church
  38. Justice for Families
  39. Justice League NYC
  40. LatinoJustice PRLDEF
  41. The Legal Aid Society
  42. #LetMyPeopleGoNow! Campaign
  43. The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center
  44. LIFE Progressive Services Group Inc
  45. Long Island Council of Churches, Public Issues Committee
  46. Long Island Progressive Coalition
  47. Make the Road NY
  48. Manhasset Quaker Monthly Meeting
  49. The MAN Program
  50. Monroe County Public Defender’s Office
  51. Muslim Peace Fellowship
  52. National Action Network - Nassau County Chapter
  53. National Action Network - NYC Chapter Second Chance Committee
  54. National Association for Mental Illness (NAMI) - Huntington
  55. National Association for Mental Illness (NAMI) - NYS Criminal Justice
  56. Neighborhood Defender Service of Harlem
  57. New Hour for Women and Children - LI
  58. New York City Jericho Movement
  59. New York Civil Liberties Union
  60. New York Immigration Coalition
  61. New York State Coalition Against Sexual Assault
  62. North Bronx Racial Justice
  63. NY CAIC
  64. NYCAIC #HALTsolitary Campaign
  65. Office of the Appellate Defender
  66. Parole Preparation Project
  67. Partnership for the Public Good
  68. Presbytery of New York City
  69. Prison Action Network
  70. Prison Families Anonymous
  71. Prison Writes
  72. Public Interest Resource Center, Fordham Law School
  73. Release Aging People in Prison (RAPP) Campaign
  74. The Riverside Church
  75. Riverside Edgecombe Neighborhood Association (RENA)
  76. ROC/ACTS
  77. Rockland Immigration Coalition
  78. Rockland Prison Justice Project
  79. Rural and Migrant Ministry
  80. SEPA Mujer Inc.
  81. Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ NYC)
  82. Sisters of St. Joseph, Brentwood Office of Peace and Justice
  83. Solitary Watch
  84. STRONG Youth, Inc.
  85. Students for a Sensible Drug Policy - Buffalo
  86. Transforming Lives
  87. Truth Pharm Inc.
  88. Turning Points Resource Center
  89. United Christian Leadership Ministry of Western NY
  90. United Voices of Cortland
  91. Uptown Progressive Action
  92. Urban Justice Center
  93. Vera House, Inc.
  94. VOCAL-NY
  95. Wayne Action for Racial Equality
  96. WESPAC Foundation
  97. Westchester for Change
  98. Western New York Campaign Against Isolated Confinement
  99. Western New York Law Center
  100. Women & Justice Project
  101. Worth Rises
  102. Youth Represent

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[1] See N.Y. Pub. Off. L. § 86(6). “‘Law enforcement disciplinary records’ means any record created in furtherance of a law enforcement disciplinary proceeding, including, but not limited to: (a) the complaints, allegations, and charges against an employee;  (b) the name of the employee complained of or charged; (c) the transcript of any disciplinary trial or hearing, including any exhibits introduced at such trial or hearing; (d) the disposition of any disciplinary proceeding; and (e) the final written opinion or memorandum supporting the disposition and discipline imposed including the agency’s complete factual findings and its analysis of  the  conduct  and  appropriate  discipline  of  the covered employee.” “Law enforcement” includes DOCCS. § 86(8).

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