Fordham Urban Law Journal, Online
In March 2017, an employee of New York’s Civilian Complaint Review Board leaked the disciplinary record of Daniel Pantaleo to the media. Pantaleo, the police officer who choked Eric Garner to death in the video that went public and horrified many citizens, is under federal investigation after a Staten Island grand jury refused to indict him for Garner’s death. Legal Aid Society attorneys had unsuccessfully sought the release of his records in the courts for years. The leak of his records is the public face of an important but rarely discussed issue facing police, legislators, judges, lawyers, and scholars who care both about transparency for public servants and privacy for individual citizens: how and when police should be forced to make their disciplinary records public.
This essay addresses the debate over whether individual officer's disciplinary records should be made public. It looks at the benefits to making such records public in courtroom situations and the drawbacks to more public availability. It also compares the debate over police disciplinary records to the debate over the publication of criminal records.