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NYCLU Seeks Release Of Syracuse Police Discipline Records From Higher Court

WAER file photo

The legal battle continues over the release of Syracuse Police Department officer discipline records with an appeal to a higher court. The New York Civil Liberties Union has been arguing for over a year that the department no longer has any legal standing to withhold records of misconduct complaints that did not result in officer discipline. NYCLU Supervising Attorney Bobby Hodgson says they’re appealing Onondaga County’s Supreme Court ruling to the Appellate Division.

"This new law made it absolutely clear that exactly these types of documents are now something that after decades of secrecy have to be made public."

He says the repeal of section 50-a is intended to shed light on complaints made against officers.

"Looking at what goes into when and how and why a police department does and does not discipline an officer as a result of a misconduct complaint is central to the question of whether it's own internal discipline process is working."

Hodgson says the lower court essentially accepted SPD’s argument to invoke a previously existing catch-all privacy provision, even if phone numbers and addresses are redacted.

"They are saying that the release of any record in any form, even with redactions, related to literally any instance categorically constitutes an invasion of officer privacy and allows them to decline to release a record. That should be troubling to anyone who thinks about transparency and what types of records agencies could withhold."

The NYCLU is arguing in its appeal that the court’s sweeping interpretation has been disagreed with by the majority of other courts who’ve considered the same question.

Scott Willis covers politics, local government, transportation, and arts and culture for WAER. He came to Syracuse from Detroit in 2001, where he began his career in radio as an intern and freelance reporter. Scott is honored and privileged to bring the day’s news and in-depth feature reporting to WAER’s dedicated and generous listeners. You can find him on twitter @swillisWAER and email him at