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December 18, 2017

Disclosure of a police officer's disciplinary files are protected by Civil Rights Law §50-a


Disclosure of a police officer's disciplinary files are protected by Civil Rights Law §50-a
Doe v New York City Police Dept., 2017 NY Slip Op 08734, Appellate Division, First Department

"John Doe," a former New York City Police Officer, sued the New York City Police Department seeking to recover damages arising from alleged harassment on the job due to his sexual orientation. Supreme Court rejected Doe's demand for a further deposition of one of his coworkers, a police officer, and the disclosure of the disciplinary files of that officer and another employee of the police department.

Supreme Court denied Doe's requests.

Considering Doe's appeal, the Appellate Division sustained the Supreme Court's decision, explaining that a "police officer's disciplinary files are protected by Civil Rights Law §50-a ... and [Doe] failed to provide a clear showing of facts sufficient to warrant even an in camera review of those records.

§50-a, in pertinent part, provides that " 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 ... 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 or probation department except as may be mandated by lawful court order.

With respect to obtaining a court order, §50-a further provides that "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 [and] after such hearing, the judge concludes there is a sufficient basis he [or she] shall sign an order requiring that the personnel records in question be sealed and sent directly to him [or her]" for review and to 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."

Further, the Appellate Division noted that "Discovery of the disciplinary file of the other police department employee was not warranted, as she was not similarly situated with [Doe]  and thus is not comparable for the purpose of showing discrimination.

The decision is posted on the Internet at:


Public Personnel Law E-books

The Discipline Book - A concise guide to disciplinary actions involving public employees in New York State set out in a 700 page e-book. For more information click on http://booklocker.com/books/5215.html

A Reasonable Disciplinary Penalty Under the Circumstances - A 442-page e-book focusing on determining an appropriate disciplinary penalty to be imposed on an employee in the public service in instances where the employee has been found guilty of misconduct or incompetence. Now available in two formats - as a large, paperback print edition and as an e-book. For more information click on

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