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NYCLU continues legal pursuit for Syracuse Police Department disciplinary records

Syracuse Police Station
Maxwell Mimaroglu
/
Syracuse Police Station downtown. 2/16/2022. (Photo by Max Mimaroglu)

The legal battle over releasing Syracuse Police Department disciplinary records continues to wind its way up the New York court system. The Appellate Division of the New York Supreme Court recently heard arguments from the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) and the city of Syracuse. The union's supervising attorney, Bobby Hodgson, told the court that the city's blanket denial for every part of every record associated with a complaint that did not result in discipline is inappropriate.

“This court has stated it repeatedly and reaffirmed it," Hodgson said. "It is the burden of the responding agency to either produce records or portions thereof. It is their burden to consider redaction and to turn over any material that is not covered by the privacy exemption.”

The legal fight began almost two years ago when the state legislature repealed Section 50-A of the civil rights law. NYCLU claims the previously secret records are now authorized to be publicly accessible pursuant to a freedom of information request. But, under the circumstance of the information request, Syracuse city attorney Mary D’Agostino disagrees with providing such private information.

"When the city of Syracuse received this NYCLU foil request, they looked at those records and determined that there was no possible way that they could redact those records in a manner where they could disclose them without implicating considerations of personal privacy," D’Agostino said.

In consideration of D’Agostino's privacy concerns, Hodgson said they may take the request to a lower court to look at what can and can’t be redacted. He said the main point behind their case is to expose records that show how police may or may not be policing themselves. The NYCLU is fighting a similar court battle in Rochester. A decision from the appellate division could come soon or take months.

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 srwillis@syr.edu.