Head of NYC Corrections Union: ‘Rule 50-A Protects Us from Prisoners Hunting Our Families’

New York City correction officers stood up for their rights against prisoners learning their home addresses on Tuesday, as the third funeral of George Floyd captured television attention, raising nearly $14 million for his family in online donations.

Already pushed on their backfoot after rioters and looters destroyed patrol cars and pummeled with bricks left for them adjacent to protest routes, New York City’s finest were fighting back against legal changes that could make their lives even more difficult.

Yesterday, President of the Corrections Officers’ Benevolent Association, Elias Husamadeen responded to the recent decision by the New York State Legislative Board to repeal L.50-A which could put both corrections and police officers and their families at risk from retaliation from prisoners and their associates.

Husamadeen said, “Every day we work with gang members who have communication with gang members in the street.”

“Why should our personal information be floating around in jail? It’s dangerous. It threatens not only me as a corrections officer, it threatens my family.”

The courts put away the people that you don’t want on the streets and now the legislature is taking away what little protection they have against them, he said.

The fate of 50-A has gone beyond the police and correction officers who are directly impacted by the rule, to likely become a political sacrifice to appease those demanding urgent reform, on any level, to punish police everywhere for what happened in Minneapolis.

The legislative decision was made without involving any law enforcement stakeholders according to the NYCPBA.

The General Council for the NYCPBA stated on Twitter that “Law enforcement was told to be thankful that they are not voting to publish the home addresses of LEOs.”

Currently, New York State Laws of Privacy Article 5: Right of Privacy Section 50-A states “Personnel records of police officers, firefighters and correction officers…shall be considered confidential and not subject to inspection or review without the express written consent of such police officer, firefighter, firefighter/paramedic, correction officer or peace officer within the department of corrections and community supervision or probation department except as may be mandated by lawful court order.

According to Candice Giove, GOP Communications Director for the NY Senate: “There’s so much the public doesn’t understand about 50-a. The Democrats repeal of a Civil Rights Law puts officers in danger by releasing information including false allegations to anyone.”

The sudden outcry against the rule is being tied to police officers, like the Minneapolis cop who kneed the neck of George Floyd on the ground for 8 minutes, who was then found to have 10-plus infractions for unnecessary violence on his record.

On some level, 50-A makes that information harder to hide, but it seems the information would have no value in the public’s hands, other than to criminals and prisoners looking to retaliate against a cop.

Momentum to change or even repeal 50-A gained additional drive when New York Governor Andrew Cuomo last week said he would sign any bill that lawmakers put before him.

“I believe 50-A needs to be repealed,” Cuomo said, as reported by the civil service weekly The Chief Leader.

“What’s preeminent now is to say to the community ‘we saw the George Floyd killing,’ ” he said. “We are also outraged and we are going to do something about it, and if 50-A is all we can do as a state, we’re going to do 50-A.”

New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio, who once held a favorable stance toward the 50-a policy with regard to the NYPD’s calls to uphold the privacy rule, caved under pressure, kicking the political football in the opposite direction.

DeBlasio is now urging repeal of 50-A, calling it “a broken law.”

“It is inhibiting transparency and accountability, and the relationship between police and community,” he said at a press conference. “The more we bring down the temperature, the more people believe there is accountability and fairness, the greater safety for all, including officers…Get rid of 50-A, things will get better, things will get safer.”

The Police Benevolent Association of the City of New York, which represents over 50,000 active and retired New York City Police Officers, as well as the Lieutenants Benevolent Association, have also been speaking out against the unilateral calls to change the law.

While working in the Rikers Island jail, COBA union head Elias has said he realized that the rights of his fellow Correction Officers were violated on a daily basis. In 1991, he began publishing “Union Watch,” a newsletter distributed to members of the Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association on a monthly basis, that really rallied others to engage with the political forces that impacted their working lives inside the jails.

All this, while the twin brother of one-time inmate George Floyd used the GoFundMe platform to already raise nearly $13,993,600 of their $15 million goal — equal to the annual salaries of 300 correction officers.

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