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Rolling Stone reports Rihanna, Ariana Grande, Justin Bieber, Megan The Stallion, Migos, Billie Eilish, and Nas are just a few of the many celebrities and members of the music industry who have signed an open letter in support of New York State repealing statute 50-A.
"We must hold accountable those who violate the oath to protect and serve, and find justice for those who are victim to their violence," the letter reads. "An indispensable step is having access to disciplinary records of law enforcement officers. New York statute 50-A blocks that full transparency, shielding a history of police misconduct from public scrutiny, making it harder to seek justice and bring about reform."
It wasn’t until after Floyd's death that the public knew of the 18 public complaints made against officer Derek Chauvin, and that only two resulted in a slap on the wrist. We only became aware of Chauvin's questionable record because Minnesota law requires that this information be made available upon request.
The New York Police Department invoked statute 50-A after Eric Garner, who also uttered the phrase "I can’t breathe," died from a chokehold by officer Daniel Pantaleo in 2014. ThinkProgress later discovered that Pantaleo had 14 individual allegations and seven disciplinary complaints. Jurist.org notes that, in New York State, the police department is legally allowed to withhold an officer’s name.
The petition comes as New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo pushes for police reform in wake of the murder of George Floyd. Cuomo is also bringing a 911 false accusation bill to state lawmakers, and reportedly considering other changes, such as banning law enforcement officials from using a chokehold, and requiring the Attorney General to name an independent prosecutor in cases involving the death of an unarmed civilian at the hands of an officer.
Statute 50-A was passed in 1976 as New York's police union argued that such a measure prevented them from being subjected to "harassment” by defense attorneys who wanted to use "unsubstantiated" prior offenses against them. According to The Nation, the senator who sponsored the bill later admitted that 50-A was never intended to block the public disclosure of police misconduct.