Sunday, April 10, 2016

legal secrecy and concealment shield overseers from accountability too!!!


NYTimes |  Days after the video gained national attention, the police commissioner, William J. Bratton, said he had strong concerns about the actions taken by the officers. By then the Police Department had already begun an investigation by its Internal Affairs Bureau and the officers had been removed from their assignment with the Conditions Unit, a neighborhood-based troubleshooting division, and put back on patrol. Later, the supervising officer was stripped of his gun and badge and put on desk duty.

Despite all that, the department did not reveal the names of the men involved or apprise the public of any history of complaints leveled against them. The officers’ names became known because of an accident report Mr. Grays obtained at the 71st Precinct station house, which identified them. After Mr. Grays was taken away by the police officers in an unmarked car, that vehicle had hit another in front of it.

Secrecy is, in essence, protocol. It is required by a controversial law passed 40 years ago, Section 50-a of the state’s civil rights code, which protects officers’ personnel records from public view, enshrining the suppression of information around police misconduct as governance.

Had Mr. Grays, in his 27 years, accumulated a litany of petty offenses and low-level drug possession charges, we would almost surely know about them. One comparatively less glaring dimension of the hypocrisy that surrounds cases in which ordinary people are harmed or killed by those entrusted to protect them is the vast difference in the way that law enforcement handles the biographies of those people. A system that safeguards the names of police officers above all else often too easily accommodates the tainting of victims. The most notorious example occurred 16 years ago, when Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani authorized the release of Patrick Dorismond’s arrest record after Mr. Dorismond had become the third unarmed black man shot and killed by New York City police officers in approximately a year. When asked to respond to criticism that he had been vilifying the dead man, the mayor only delivered his rebuke more emphatically, claiming that Mr. Dorismond was not “an altar boy.”