The New York State Legislature repealed Civil Rights Law §50-a* and amended the Freedom of Information Law [FOIL] relating to the disclosure of law enforcement disciplinary records and the types of redactions to be made thereto prior to disclosure effective June 12, 2020,.**
Addressing an appeal by Petitioner in a proceeding pursuant to CPLR Article 78 to compel the production of certain records pursuant to FOIL, the Appellate Division noted that Supreme Court's judgment, insofar as appealed from, denied branches of the petition which were to compel the production of the records sought in three Freedom of Information Law requests and, in effect, dismissed that portion of the proceeding.
As to the three FOIL requests at issue in this action, NCPD had withheld all documents relating to complaints that were not determined to be substantiated on the ground that such documents were categorically exempt from disclosure as an "unwarranted invasion of personal privacy" pursuant to Public Officers Law §87(2)(b).
The Appellate Division opined that "records concerning unsubstantiated complaints or allegations of misconduct are not categorically exempt from disclosure as an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy, and the NCPD is required to disclose the requested records, subject to redactions with particularized and specific justification under Public Officers Law §87(2), as mandated by §87(4-a), or as permitted by §87(4-b).
The Appellate Division observed that "By their nature, FOIL requests seek records that were generated prior to the request date." In amending the Public Officers Law to provide for the disclosure of records relating to law enforcement disciplinary proceedings, "the Legislature did not limit disclosure under FOIL to records generated after June 12, 2020, and we will not impose such a limitation ourselves", citing Matter of Friedman v Rice, 30 NY3d at 478.***
* The former Civil Rights Law §50-a provided a blanket shield from public disclosure for police officer personnel records, including records relating to disciplinary proceedings arising out of allegations of misconduct. See Matter of New York Civ. Liberties Union v New York City Police Dept., 32 NY3d 556).
** See Chapter 96 of the Laws of 2020.
*** There are statutory prohibitions to public disclosure of certain public records. Education Law, §1127 - [Confidentiality of records] and §33.13, Mental Hygiene Law [Clinical records; confidentiality] are examples of such statutory limitations.
Click HERE to access the full text of the Appellate Division's analysis and decision posted on the Internet.