Mothers of Sons Killed by Police Call for End to NY Police Secrecy Law

The mothers of sons who have been killed by police officers in New York have banded together to call for an end to a law that keeps law enforcement officers’ disciplinary records secret. This group includes Gwen Carr, the mother of Eric Garner, who was killed in 2014 in a chokehold by a police officer. It made national headlines, and “I can’t breathe” has become a rallying cry at protests against police brutality and secrecy.

“We need to repeal and end the law that protects officers who kill our children and our loved ones,” Carr said, testifying Thursday at a hearing in New York City on a legislative proposal to repeal the law, the Associated Press reported.

Carr hopes that New York lawmakers will repeal the law, called 50-a. It also applies to correctional officers and firefighters.

“The public needs this information,” Valerie Bell, the mother of police shooting victim Sean Bell, told the Associated Press. “This is about public safety. Hiding this information means that officers who are repeat offenders are allowed to keep their jobs.”

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But powerful interests are against the change, including police unions.

New York City’s Police Benevolent Association President Patrick Lynch wrote in a statement that 50-a “is even more important in 2019 than it was when first enacted in 1976,” according to the Associated Press.

The law was originally put into place to stop defense attorneys from cross-examining police officers with immaterial information in their personnel file, according to a report last year from the state’s Committee on Open Government.

New York City Police Commissioner James O’Neill has said that he supports changing the law so there is more public transparency and accountability around disciplinary actions taken against law enforcement and correctional officers.