06/05/2020 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 06/05/2020 16:09
Engel Statement on Mount Vernon Police Gothamist Article and 50-A
Congressman Eliot L. Engel issued the following statement in response to the Gothamist article title 'The Mount Vernon Police Tapes: In Secretly Recorded Phone Calls, Officer say Innocent People Were Framed' and offers his thought on repealing section 50-a of the New York State Civil Rights law:
'Reading the Gothamist article titled 'The Mount Vernon Police Tapes: In Secretly Recorded Phone Calls, Officers Say Innocent People Were Framed' left me stunned and ashamed. Right now across the country, millions of Americans are protesting police brutality against communities of color, abuse of power, and the forces of systemic racism that remain pervasive in our society. The accusations in the article-which warrant greater investigation-encapsulate all of that and speak to the obvious need for significant reform. We at the federal level are committed to doing our part, but at the state level, I believe State Senator Jamaal T. Bailey's legislation to repeal section 50-a of the civil rights law is more important than ever and should be passed as soon as possible.
'50-a permits law enforcement officers to refuse disclosure of 'personnel records used to evaluate performance toward continued employment or promotion.' The law has been used by law enforcement to withhold from the public any record that could be used to evaluate officer performance, including disciplinary records. This lack of transparency clearly allows police misconduct to go unaddressed and insulates law-enforcement from proper accountability. Police officers are sworn to uphold the law, but provisions like 50-a keeps them above it. Section 50-a should be repealed.
'Finally, I think it's also important to address the whistleblower in the Gothamist story, Officer Murashea Bovell. What Officer Bovell did here was extremely brave, especially when you consider the protective and insular nature of the law-enforcement community. I can tell you firsthand as a key player in the Trump impeachment hearings, and as a leader in investigating the latest improper firings of our Inspectors General, the importance of protecting whistleblowers cannot be overstated. These individuals risk quite a bit in order to uphold the law, and they should be lauded for their courage.'