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Reilly drafting legislation to protect law enforcement and their families from targeted harassment in light of 50-a repeal

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: June 19, 2020
CONTACT: Peter Giunta, 347.621.8031

Assemblymember Michael Reilly (R-South Shore) announced today his intention to introduce legislation which would make it a crime to annoy, harass, or stalk a police officer, correction officer, or member of their immediate family. This legislation, which is in the process of being drafted, would apply to instances of harassment occurring in person, electronically (such as through text message), and on social media.  It would be classified as a Class A Misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in prison or three years of probation.

Reilly is introducing this legislation in response to the State Legislature’s repeal of New York Civil Rights Law Section 50-a, which had previously deemed the personnel records of police officers, firefighters, and correction officers confidential, subject to release by order of a judge or with the officer’s permission.  Albany Democrats have pushed hard to repeal Section 50-a in recent years, but law enforcement unions including the New York City Police Benevolent Association and the Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association  have expressed concern over the release of this information, which includes the officer’s name among other bits of personal identifiable information.

“I have maintained that while I agree reform was needed to be made to provide transparency, I felt they needed to be made in a more reasonable manner. Both the community and law enforcement should have had a seat at the table to develop a policy that ensured transparency and accountability, without compromising the safety of our officers,” said Reilly. “By repealing 50-a in full, we are allowing the reckless release of information that will ultimately jeopardize the safety of law enforcement, as well as allow for the creation of a narrative that is grossly taken out of context.”

Reilly continued, “I am not approaching this the same way as many of my colleagues on the other side of the aisle did, just as a legislator, but also as a former Lieutenant with the New York City Police Department. I understand the very real impact that all of this has; the impact that bad policing has, the impact that good policing has, and most importantly, the serious risk our members of law enforcement face each and every day, both on and off the clock.”

Reilly believes that the repeal of 50-a will allow chronic offenders and their associates to receive just enough information to find the home address of a current or former member of law enforcement, as well as other personal information such as a former member of law enforcement’s phone number or social media account. He is also concerned that the release of personnel records will lead to the creation of a narrative taken grossly out of context based on unsubstantiated and unfounded allegations.

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