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Larry Byrne's Eureka Moment
September 5, 2016
Call it Larry Byrne’s epiphany.
Byrne is the NYPD’s deputy commissioner of legal matters. A former federal prosecutor, he’s a smart and slick guy.
As the federal corruption probe into the NYPD’s top ranks unfolded — 10 chiefs and inspectors have been transferred or reassigned in a suspected favors-for-gifts scheme — he tried to convince reporters of something preposterous: that the NYPD had begun probing the corruption on its own around the same time as the federal authorities.
Around this time, he had his eureka moment. He claimed to have discovered that the NYPD is actually prohibited from releasing the disciplinary records of cops, which for the past four decades the department made public through the release of its personnel orders.
Byrne cited something known as section 50-a of the New York Civil Rights Law. It prohibits police, fire and corrections departments from releasing personnel records of its officers. He said that the NYPD had misinterpreted the law.
Outgoing police commissioner Bill Bratton who, since returning to the NYPD in 2014 has touted the department’s “transparency,” went along with Byrne. “It is a state law that we and every other police department in this state are obligated to conform to,” Bratton said last week. “It was a lapse in oversight on our part brought to our attention, and we corrected it.”
His transparency turnabout is nothing compared to that of the city’s hypocrite-in-chief, Mayor Bill de Blasio. As Public Advocate, de Blasio was all for transparency in government. Since becoming mayor, he seems to be on an anti-transparency crusade.
Check out his stance on a lawsuit involving one of the most racially contentious issues of his administration — the 2014 “chokehold” death of Eric Garner in Staten Island by police officer Daniel Pantaleo.
That lawsuit, known as Luongo v. Civilian Complaint Review Board, resulted from a Freedom of Information request by The Legal Aid Society for Pantaleo’s history of substantiated complaints. Manhattan State Supreme Court Justice Alice Schlesinger ruled the CCRB must produce the records.
Last week, de Blasio told WNYC radio host Brian Lehrer that he supports changing the 50-a law to provide more transparency. Who’s he kidding? All he has to do is order newly appointed NYPD commissioner James O’Neill to release the personnel orders as the department had for the past 40 years.
“He’s hiding behind the statute,” says Chris Dunn, associate legal director of the New York Civil Liberties Union. “If police transparency depends on the New York state legislature, we’ll all be long gone before the statue is changed.”
Last year, the PBA gave the award to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, not exactly a mayoral favorite. This year the beneficiary was Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke.
Clarke is an anomaly: an African-American supporter of Donald Trump and an antagonist of the protest movement Black Lives Matter. A PBA news release described Clarke as “a passionate and vocal defender of police officers at a time when our job is more difficult than ever before.”
The mayor, with whom Lynch has been feuding since de Blasio took office in 2014, says he supports Black Lives Matter. He also supports Hillary Clinton [albeit belatedly.]
At the union’s annual convention, Clarke gave the keynote address, speaking for nearly 40 minutes to a series of standing ovations.
Copyright © 2016 Leonard Levitt