NY village moves to protect privacy of first responders from state discovery law

Under a recent New York bail reform and discovery law, the names of firefighters and EMS personnel must be released to criminal defendants


Donna Thompson
The Times Telegram, Herkimer, N.Y.

ILION, N.Y. — First responders are required to have their personal information released to criminals under New York state's new bail reform and discovery law, but the Ilion village board voted Wednesday to protect their privacy.

Police Chief Timothy Parisi said while much of the criticism of the law has focused on bail reform, the effects of the discovery portion of the law are beginning to be felt.

"We have people who don't file complaints because they don't want their personal information given to the suspect," he said.

If an ambulance or fire engine is on the scene of an incident in which an arrest is made, police are required to get the names and information of everyone on the scene, including first responders, said Parisi.

Law enforcement personnel are not required to disclose their contact information to protect them and their families from threats and intimidation, but the same protection is not being extended to firefighters and other emergency personnel.

The discovery process now requires that police reports, radio transmissions, video and witness names and contact information related to the prosecution of a crime be provided to defendants within 15 days of arraignment. For local police, that means getting all of that information to the district attorney in three to five days, Parisi said.

"Fulton County has become a sanctuary county," said Mayor Brian Lamica. "They oppose giving out first responders' information to anyone. That extends to firefighters and EMS personnel. I fully support what Fulton County did. I don't feel our first responders' lives or safety or that of their families should be put in jeopardy."

The other board members agreed and unanimously passed a resolution to protect first responders' privacy in the village.

The Fulton County Board of Supervisors passed a resolution earlier this week in support of legislation sponsored by state Sen. Jim Tedisco, R-Glenville, to protect the privacy and safety of emergency first responders and their families under the new law.

Tedisco, along with Assemblyman Dan Stec, R-Queensbury, and Assemblywoman Mary Beth Walsh, R-Ballston, have introduced new legislation to protect the privacy of emergency first responders under the discovery portion of the law.

The issue has come up in Oneida County as well. Several firefighters attended Wednesday's meeting of the Oneida County Board of Legislators to ask the board to support changes in the state law that would protect their personal information. They pointed out that volunteer fire departments are already having problems recruiting members. State Senate Deputy Minority Leader Joseph Griffo, R-Rome, has expressed support for the bill and sought privacy protection for witnesses and first responders.

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©2020 The Times Telegram, Herkimer, N.Y.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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