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I-TEAM: Lawmaker blames police, firefighter unions for lack of transparency in discipline records

Posted: 3:45 AM, Jul 25, 2019
Updated: 2019-07-25 08:49:16-04
open records laws

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — The 7 Eyewitness News I-Team has discovered a bill-- sitting in Albany -- that would repeal a civil law, allowing law enforcement and fire agencies to keep discipline records private.

It's sponsored by a downstate lawmaker. Between the State Senate and the State Assembly, only one Western New York lawmaker has signed on as a co-sponsor.

In supporting this bill, Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes says, "I don't see how any public servant who is sworn to an oath would fear transparency."

To get this bill signed into law, the majority leader says there has to be a consensus.

"If there is no consensus yet, you're not going to move it forward. So there's no consensus yet."

This bill has been sitting in committee for at least two years.

The New York State Committee on Open Government insists the repeal of this law is "long overdue"-- and "prevents meaningful public oversight of law enforcement..."

The majority leader says it comes down to strong unions and lobbyists.

"There are a lot of people who support it, but there are a lot of people who don't...like the PBA, the corrections associations, the firefighters organization. They don't want this level of accountability. Now, ask them why they don't and maybe you'll figure out why we can't get this passed," Peoples-Stokes said.

We have twice reached out to the Buffalo firefighters local office-- and the Buffalo police union-- but they have not responded to our requests for comment.

We'll continue to push for comments and answers from both unions-- and our local representatives in Albany.