Whether you believe New York Civil Rights Law Section 50-a, aka, the “Police Shield Law”, was necessary to protect police officers, corrections officers, and firefighters from misuse of their personnel information or you supported the statute’s repeal because withholding or making it difficult to secure disciplinary records was an impediment to fair trials and justice, the New York City Police Department took an enormous step in its promise for more transparency. Although police departments across the state – from Nassau County to Erie County and everywhere in between – must determine how to comply with the repeal and the means by which this information is made available and accessible, the online NYPD Personnel Database contains officer profiles, a trial decision library, trial calendars, information about complaints by members of the public against police officers to Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB), a Discipline Matrix, and information about civil lawsuits alleging misconduct.
In criminal matters, where defense attorneys could use findings of misconduct and disciplinary sanctions to impeach a police officer or detective testifying at trial, the above materials could be incredibly valuable. At the same time, a complaint against an officer is not proof of wrongdoing just as the same holds true for the accused in a criminal proceeding. Instead, a case by case, or officer by officer, analysis accompanied by actual findings is paramount.