NYPD Foils FOIL Request For NYPD FOIL Handbook

from the in-other-news,-NYPD-denies-it-exists,-forwards-requests-to-Mailboxes,-Etc. dept

The NYPD's approach to transparency has been negatively compared to the CIA, FBI and NSA by prominent investigative reporters, who noted that these other agencies will at least respond even if they're not particularly interested in kicking the requested documents loose. The NYPD often won't even respond, and when it does, it tends to drag the process out to the point of absurdity before finally deciding that no, it won't release the requested information.

Muckrock points out that NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton once stated, "there should be no secrets in the NYPD." The NYPD, under Ray Kelly (and apparently, going forward as well), has responded with, "Move along. There's nothing (EVER) to see here."

In what can only be described as a new low for the NYPD, it has denied Muckrock's FOIL (Freedom of Information Law) request for the NYPD's FOIL handbook.

I have written a number of times about ongoing difficulties with the New York Police Department's FOIL Unit. From rejecting routine requests to claiming "inability to locate" documents even when provided with a form number, NYPD seems hellbent on obstructing access to its records.

Last week, NYPD's freedom of information squad determined that its own handbook is exempt from disclosure under FOIL, New York's public records statute.
Somehow, the NYPD feels that attorney-client privilege applies to its internal handbook on FOIL requests and has used that exception to reach this illogical, Heller-esque nadir in department transparency. If Muckrock's challenge of the NYPD's rationale is denied, it opens up all sorts of possibilities for the tight-lipped department, as Shawn Musgrave points out.
I very much hope that a competent lawyer who is familiar with NYPD's obligations under FOIL prepared the department's records request manual and training materials. But just because something was prepared or reviewed by an attorney does not mean that an agency can withhold it. If this were true, the vast majority of policy documents prepared by any agency counsel would be immune from disclosure, as would most talking points memos, reports and communiques that endure lawyerly vetting. This is simply not how attorney-client privilege is meant to work.
It may be time for the DOJ to declare the NYPD a "rogue agency" (or whatever) and start steering the department back into the calmer waters of public service. It certainly fits the description. It apparently answers to nobody, routinely rewrites laws and guidelines to justify unconstitutional behavior and sends its uninvited personnel to the scenes of terrorist attacks around the world. Ray Kelly called it the seventh-largest standing army in the world, but it behaves more like a law unto itself.



Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    icon
    silverscarcat (profile), Feb 18th, 2014 @ 7:24am

    Um...

    Muckrock?

    Muckrock who?

    Muckrock a zoo?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
    icon
    btrussell (profile), Feb 18th, 2014 @ 8:34am

    Re: Um...

    Knock knock

    Who's there?

    Muckrock

    Muckrock who?

    Muckrock the boat, baby, muckrock the boat.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
    icon
    limbodog (profile), Feb 18th, 2014 @ 8:47am

    Seriously, what do you do?

    When a police agency just refuses to follow the law. What now?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 18th, 2014 @ 8:50am

    It almost makes me want to commit a crime, write everything down, and have a lawyer read the documents, thus exempting me from prosecution, apparently.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 18th, 2014 @ 9:22am

    Sounds like press freedom to write anything and note. "NYPD was contacted but did not provide any contradictory information".

    For example their are allegations of baby eating by police officers on the 400 Block of BLAH avenue. We requested commentary by the police but they were unable to provide documents refuting the allegations.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6.  
    icon
    That One Guy (profile), Feb 18th, 2014 @ 9:28am

    Re: Seriously, what do you do?

    Theoretically, the DoJ would step in and clean the whole mess out, putting those responsible for the abuses on trial and behind bars, and trying to bring the department back into line with the law.

    However, since this is the DoJ we're talking about, an agency who only seems to do their job when they're fairly certain it'll be an easy case, probably best not to expect anything from them, and if they don't care to reign in the NYPD, then it's going to be quite the fight to clean out the corruption, likely involving numerous court cases and several years.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7.  
    icon
    Violynne (profile), Feb 18th, 2014 @ 9:45am

    First. Outside. Inside. Last.

    Who knew this algebra formula was so applicable to life.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8.  
    icon
    Deranged Poster (profile), Feb 18th, 2014 @ 9:49am

    Re: Re: Seriously, what do you do?

    They don't follow the existing laws, why do you think they'll follow anything the DoJ says?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9.  
    icon
    That One Guy (profile), Feb 18th, 2014 @ 10:04am

    Re: Re: Re: Seriously, what do you do?

    It would require a little more than the usual 'suggestions' they've been receiving so far, where there's no real repercussions when they ignore them. Rather, such a process would almost certainly involve digging through all the department records, and charging, sending to trial, and jailing numerous well connected and powerful individuals.

    All of which would take some serious work, and require someone very willing to step on the toes of a group that has shown that they full believe themselves to be above the law, hence why the DoJ would never touch it.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 18th, 2014 @ 10:52am

    considering other security forces are able to reject requests for public information by the public, why should NYPD be any different? do people not realise that the more a security force is allowed to withhold, the more it will? eventually you get to the point where you are in a country run by the security services, and unless they are part of the plan, the government is as powerless as the people

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11.  
    identicon
    kitsune361, Feb 18th, 2014 @ 12:48pm

    Re: Re: Re: Seriously, what do you do?

    Even the DoJ has a hard time following the law, let alone enforcing it. What makes anyone think they'd slap the hand of their slightly more grievous little brother? Hell, they're probably cheer-leading for the NYPD, maybe they can get some good precedent out of it.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12.  
    icon
    Internet Zen Master (profile), Feb 18th, 2014 @ 2:38pm

    Can someone tell the NYPD

    That John McClane is a fictional character, and that you don't get to play fast and loose with the law just because you have a badge?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13.  
    icon
    Matthew Cline (profile), Feb 18th, 2014 @ 3:21pm

    Are we sure this isn't some form of performance art?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14.  
    identicon
    John Snape, Feb 18th, 2014 @ 6:40pm

    Post-It FOIL Manual

    Maybe it's just a post-it note that says:

    1. Does the request make NYPD look bad?
    Yes - deny the request
    No - deny the request

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 18th, 2014 @ 7:01pm

    Remember: Bratton was successfully sued under RICO. Federal judge actually ruled that Bratton and his LAPD were subject to organized crime statues. And they are still under federal monitor.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16.  
    icon
    That One Guy (profile), Feb 18th, 2014 @ 8:47pm

    Re:

    I hope that's not supposed to make people feel better. They get charged under RICO, and remain unpunished and in the same positions they were before, whereas if any normal person faced charges like that, they'd have been tossed in a cell.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17.  
    icon
    limbodog (profile), Feb 19th, 2014 @ 8:56am

    Re:

    I'd have to look into that more. Do you have to show you were 'injured' first? Could those who have filed for FoI docs and been ignored count that?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18.  
    icon
    silverscarcat (profile), Feb 20th, 2014 @ 1:44am

    Re: Re: Um...

    But, seriously, who or what is Muckrock?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19.  
    icon
    btrussell (profile), Feb 20th, 2014 @ 2:32am

    Re: Re: Re: Um...

    https://www.muckrock.com/news/archives/2014/feb/14/nypd-rejects-foil-handbook-request/

    "MuckRock is a United States-based organization which assists anyone in filing governmental requests for information through the Freedom of Information Act, then publishes the returned information on its website and encourages journalism around it."
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MuckRock

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I82pl3Eaq98

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Save me a cookie
  • Note: A CRLF will be replaced by a break tag (<br>), all other allowable HTML will remain intact
  • Allowed HTML Tags: <b> <i> <a> <em> <br> <strong> <blockquote> <hr> <tt>
Follow Techdirt
A word from our sponsors...
Essential Reading
Techdirt Reading List
Techdirt Insider Chat
A word from our sponsors...
Recent Stories
A word from our sponsors...

Close

Email This