I-TEAM: New York State Police must release discipline documentation

New York State Police
Posted at 1:45 PM, Apr 25, 2023
and last updated 2023-04-25 18:30:51-04

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — A New York State judge is mandating New York State Police be more transparent about the discipline of state troopers.

For many years, New York State Police have largely kept discipline of its troopers and higher ups on a "need to know basis." The public often was not part of that need. The 7 News I-Team exposed the often secret discipline files in November.

But that will soon change with a ruling from the court, in a lawsuit filed by the New York Civil Liberties Union.

"The big take away is the New York State Police now has turn over thousands of underlying complaint and investigation records," Bobby Hodgson said. He's the supervising attorney for the NYCLU.

Hodgson says this decision forces state police to release certain disciplinary documents going back to 2000. All of that will be made public.

"The idea is to get a much more big picture, historical view of how these types of investigations have changed over the years," Hodgson said.

The NYCLU filed this lawsuit, questioning how state police were disciplining their own. They believed that discipline was often insufficient and not designed to change underlying behavior.

But Hodgson says, this decision forces state police to release 20 years of documents on a rolling basis.

"This is why transparency is the first very vital step towards any accountability or any informed discussion about accountability," Hodgson said. "So starting to see the details of what these investigations look like -- how they took place, whether and when there was discipline imposed, that is absolutely vital to starting the conversation about what needs to change.'

Troopers will still have the ability to redact— keep some things hidden from public view. But with this ruling, Hodgson says police will now have to release all complaints, including those that are unfounded or unsubstantiated.

"It is absolutely still our position that it's really vital for people to get the names of officers and the other important information about unsubstantiated complaints, complaints that didn't result in discipline-- because the public needs to know is there some officer that has 50 complaints against them and all of them were unsubstantiated -- all of that is vital information," Hodgson said.

The NYCLU is planning to release this information to the public, once they do some analysis, allowing you to understand what's happening behind closed doors.

New York State Police were contacted for a response to this decision. We're told, since appeals are still possible, they are not commenting further.