The New York Civil Liberties Union claims the NYPD is illegally withholding databases on disciplinary records of officers, new court papers allege.
The group made a sprawling request in April under the Freedom of Information Law for the NYPD to turn over any databases it maintains on departmental misconduct and disciplinary records, according to the NYCLU’s Manhattan Supreme Court lawsuit from Thursday.
The NYPD rejected the request on May 5 claiming it was “too broad.” Now, the NYCLU is asking a judge to force the NYPD to comply with its FOIL request, the court papers say.
The civil rights group made the request after the NYPD in March launched a searchable database on uniformed officers, which it claimed wrongfully withheld records “related to unsubstantiated allegations,” such as when an officer was cleared of misconduct claims or when an investigation didn’t made it to a departmental trial, the court papers claim.
This means that the database “only covers a small portion of misconduct and disciplinary records possessed by the NYPD,” the filing alleges.
The records being sought are no longer shielded after state secrecy law 50a was repealed in June 2020 as part of a package of police reform bills that were passed in the wake of George Floyd’s fatal arrest.
“Despite the push for transparency in New York, the NYPD continues to withhold crucial information regarding potential police misconduct and disciplinary matter form the public denying the request in the manner challenged here,” the suit charges.
“By no means has the NYPD entered a new era of transparency by disclosing only those misconduct complaints that they themselves deemed worthy of prosecution,” NYCLU lawyer Lupe Aguirre said in a prepared statement. “NYPD officers cannot be trusted to investigate and discipline themselves, and New Yorkers have a right to know the substance and outcome of all NYPD complaints.”
“We are suing the NYPD today to vindicate New Yorkers’ right to complete information about the misconduct that takes place within their communities,” Aguirre’s statement continued.
The activist group in August 2020 made its own online database from CCRB records that it obtained following a failed bid by police, fire and correction unions seeking to block data from becoming public.
The NYPD published its database following the Civilian Complaint Review Board’s data dump on disciplinary records of more than 83,000 active and former cops.
NYPD spokesperson Edward Riley said the agency was in the process of reviewing older “lesser forms of discipline” to add into its online public database, but it would not produce or publish what it defines as “technical infractions” under the state law.
“[The repeal of 50a] does not mean that the department is now compelled to publish all personnel related information, but doing so is no longer prohibited by law,” the spokesman said, adding the “NYPD dashboard links to outside agencies including the CCRB and the city’s Law Department where information outside the scope of what the police department provides can be accessed.”
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