May 6, 2019

Denying a Freedom of Information Law request for certain unredacted records and reports concerning a correction officer's acts or omissions in the performance of his or her duties


§50-a.1 of the Civil Rights Law concerning the production of the personnel records of police officers, firefighters and correction officers, provides that "[a]ll 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 of individuals defined as police officers in §1.20 of the criminal procedure law and such personnel records under the control of a sheriff's department or a department of correction of individuals employed as correction officers and such personnel records under the control of a paid fire department or force of individuals employed as firefighters or firefighter/paramedics and such personnel records under the control of the department of corrections and community supervision for individuals defined as peace officers pursuant to subdivisions twenty-three and twenty-three-a of §2.10 of the criminal procedure law and such personnel records under the control of a probation department for individuals defined as peace officers pursuant to subdivision twenty-four of §2.10 of the criminal procedure law 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."


In response to a demand for certain records involving the activities and conduct of correction officers, the Appellate Division said that its in camera review of a sampling of the requested documents in unredacted form "reveals that the factual description of events contained in the reports was 'neutral and did not contain any invidious implications capable facially of harassment or degradation of the officer in a courtroom'." To comply with the legislative objective of Civil Rights Law §50-a, explained the court, the custodian of the record must demonstrate a "substantial and realistic potential" for the unredacted reports to be used against the officers in a harassing or abusive manner.

Citing Matter of Patrolmen's Benevolent Assn. of the City of N.Y., Inc. v De Blasio, 169 AD3d at 519, the Appellate Division concluded that the nature and a facility's use of unusual incident reports, use of force reports and misbehavior reports, as well as their lack of potential to be used abusively against correction officers, are such that the documents do not qualify as personnel records within the meaning of Civil Rights Law §50-a. Accordingly such unredacted documents are not exempt from disclosure under Public Officers Law §87(2) and the documents should be provided in "unredacted form."


In response to a demand for certain records involving the activities and conduct of correction officers, the Appellate Division said that its in camera review of a sampling of the requested documents in unredacted form "reveals that the factual description of events contained in the reports was 'neutral and did not contain any invidious implications capable facially of harassment or degradation of the officer in a courtroom'." To comply with the legislative objective of Civil Rights Law §50-a, explained the court, the custodian of the record must demonstrate a "substantial and realistic potential" for the unredacted reports to be used against the officers in a harassing or abusive manner.

Citing Matter of Patrolmen's Benevolent Assn. of the City of N.Y., Inc. v De Blasio, 169 AD3d at 519, the Appellate Division concluded that the nature and a facility's use of unusual incident reports, use of force reports and misbehavior reports, as well as their lack of potential to be used abusively against correction officers, are such that the documents do not qualify as personnel records within the meaning of Civil Rights Law §50-a. Accordingly such unredacted documents are not exempt from disclosure under Public Officers Law §87(2) and the documents should be provided in "unredacted form."

The decision is posted on the Internet at:


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