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NYC reviewing judge's order to release disciplinary records on NYPD cop involved in Eric Garner case

City officials said on Thursday that they were reviewing a judge's decision ordering the city to release a summary of disciplinary records on Daniel Pantaleo, the police officer involved in the controversial death of Eric Garner last year.

The ruling came in a lawsuit brought by the Legal Aid Society seeking information from the Civilian Complaint Review Board, which considers police misconduct allegations, about how many substantiated complaints there were against Pantaleo, and any recommendations for discipline or fines.

State law exempts police officers' "personnel records" from disclosure under the state's Freedom Information Law, and a lawyer for Pantaleo opposed the release. But state Supreme Court Justice Alice Schlesinger ruled that a numerical report was not the equivalent of a personnel record.

The judge also rejected claims from Pantaleo -- who has 24-hour police protection at his home, as well as video surveillance and a panic button -- that release of the records would open him up to risks of harm.

"Any adverse reactions expressed toward Mr. Pantaleo have their roots in the video of the incident, which speaks for itself, and, thereafter, in the Staten Island Grand Jury's subsequent decision not to indict him," Schlesinger wrote.

"Moreover," she added, "the court believes that any backlash in response to the release of the Summary, while improbable in the first instance, is more likely to be directed at the NYPD, which would have received CCRB's recommendations, than at Pantaleo."

In the notorious incident caught on a bystander's cellphone that gave rise to the suit, Pantaleo brought the 350-pound Garner down with an apparent neckhold during an arrest for selling untaxed cigarettes in Staten Island on July 17, 2014. The medical examiner said Garner, 43, died from compression of the neck and chest.

A Staten Island grand jury declined to indict Pantaleo for criminally negligent homicide or manslaughter. Federal officials are still reviewing whether to bring civil rights charges. Pantaleo is on desk duty, and the city settled a potential lawsuit with Garner's family for $5.9 million last week.

The Civilian Complaint Review Board investigates misconduct complaints and makes recommendations to the NYPD. The Legal Aid Society said it was seeking the records on Pantaleo to aid discussions with the NYPD on how to improve investigative and disciplinary systems.

A Legal Aid Society official, Tina Luongo, said in a statement, "The ongoing debate about the effectiveness of our current systems of police accountability is happening largely in the dark due to the CCRB's strict policies against disclosing individual officer misconduct . . . . Cleary, this needed to change."

A city spokesman said the decision was under review and no decision had been made on an appeal. Pantaleo's lawyer could not be reached for comment, and a police union spokesman declined to comment.


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