Syracuse won't release police disciplinary records despite court order
The City of Syracuse is again refusing to comply with a court order that requires the release of police disciplinary records.
The New York Civil Liberties Union said the Syracuse Police Department recently sent them a letter indicating they won’t release the requested files until fall of 2025.
Supervising attorney Bobby Hodgson understands the request for 20 years of files is daunting, but he said other cities are releasing a few documents at a time.
"They roll out new documents on a regular basis, at an agreed-upon rate," Hodgson said. "For example, in Buffalo, regarding a nearly identical foil request, Buffalo agreed to be turning over dozens of officers’ full disciplinary files per month until they were done."
Hodgson worries the city wants to use the time to improperly redact the records, creating additional legal issues.
This all began nearly three years ago when the state repealed a law that protected the files from reaching public scrutiny. Hodgson said the delay tactics appear designed to avoid transparency around police conduct.
"It is against the law. It is certainly not what the legislature and the people of New York intended when they made a promise in June of 2020, to sort of lift the veil of secrecy and say ‘These are exactly the documents that people need to see.’ Just start having an informed conversation about what accountability looks like in their community.”
Hodgson said holding off until late 2025 can only leave residents guessing about the city’s motivation.
“If you can draw no other conclusion, then the agency is concerned that simply shedding light on what has been happening for the past 20 years in their disciplinary system is going to make people angry at its decision. But that is certainly not a justification for keeping things secret.”
Hodgson said Syracuse’s delay is an outlier among several other cities that are following the same court order. He said the NYCLU has administratively appealed the proposed timeline and are considering all options to ensure the timely release of the records.
City attorneys did not respond to a request for comment.