ORISKANY, NY - Police reform legislation, known as "Say Their Name," sprinted through passage in the NYS Assembly and Senate this week. It was fueled by outrage over the death, in late May, of George Floyd at the knee of Minneapolis Police.
Among the bills, the repeal of section 50-A, of 1976 NYS Civil Rights Law, which permits law enforcement to refuse disclosure of personnal records, used to evaluate performance toward continued employment or promotion.
20-year-old Robert Perry, of Utica, is a leader for the social issues advocacy group Citizen Action, and a local pastor. He sees an upside, and a potential downside, to the repeal of 50-A.
"I think that there's a good ground for allowing the public to know if there's any dangers on the police's criminal record that could put the community at risk having a new officer, but I also want to be transparent with it and say that it could put the officer's reputation at risk, depending on what it is, people could be very angry and retaliate in a wrong way," says Perry.
Oneida County Sheriff Robert Maciol says he welcomes transparency and embraced costly body-worn cameras for his deputies. But he has concerns about anything that makes the already challenging task of recruiting and hiring new officers even more difficult.
"We have to tell them now, if you did something when you're young that you're not proud of, that's gonna be in your file, and that could come out in a criminal trial, if you're a witness in a trial, anything like that so it's certainly not gonna help us when it comes to recruiting," says Maciol.
Assemblywoman Marianne Buttenschon and Senator Joseph Griffo voted against repeal of 50-A. The Senate and Assembly did pass the "Say Their Name" legislation. It's not yet clear when the governor will sign the measures into law.