Judge axes '48-hour rule': Says the PBA can't use it
September 17, 2003
An Albany judge has ruled that the controversial and often misunderstood "48-hour rule" can no longer be negotiated into police union contracts.
State Supreme Court Justice Edward A. Sheridan decided that the rule, which requires the Police Department to wait two days before interrogating officers accused of misconduct, is improper and cannot be a subject of future negotiations between the city and the union representing police officers.
While the rule has little practical value, it has come to have symbolic importance both to the public and the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association.
The 48-hour delay in questioning officers applies only to cases of minor, albeit sometimes high-profile misconduct, such as that of Eduardo Delacruz, who was charged last year with disobeying an order to arrest a homeless man near Union Square in Manhattan.
The rule gives officers 48 hours to obtain legal or union representation before being questioned by police officials.
Major criminal cases involving police officers as suspects, however, are investigated by district attorneys, and prosecutors invariably instruct the Police Department not to question suspects.
A union attorney explained that statements officers make to the department cannot be used against the officers in court.
The department has long sought to rid itself of the 48-hour rule. In May, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said, "It is the intention of the city to see to it, as with all the other police unions, that the 48-hour rule be eliminated."
Yesterday, a union official who asked for anonymity said the rule is a misconception, with the public thinking that it gives officers suspected of wrongdoing 48 hours to get their stories straight.
"That is what it doesn't do," the union official said.
Despite its limited value, the rule is one of the last vestiges the PBA is holding on to, a police source said. "All the other unions have already lost or given it up," he said.
A union spokesman said the union would appeal Sheridan's decision.
The decision, which Sheridan wrote last month, affirmed an April ruling by a hearing officer with the state's Public Employment Relations Board in relation to the PBA's contract with the city. That decision also was appealed by the union.
A spokesman for the Police Department declined to comment yesterday.
© 2003 Newsday, Inc. Reprinted with permission.