NYPD Now Preventing Journalists From Accessing Police Blotters

from the forms-own-Ministry-of-Information;-immediately-burns-it-to-the-ground dept

AP investigative journalists Matt Apuzzo and Adam Goldman memorably proclaimed the NYPD to be “less transparent than CIA, FBI and NSA” when it came to responding to FOI requests. Apparently, the NYPD finds this assessment of its obfuscation skills to be underwhelming, as other notable entities like “the Kremlin in its Cold War prime” and “the North Korean Ministry of People’s Security 1948-present” were not included in the journalists’ depiction of the department.

DNAinfo reports that the NYPD is now shutting down local journalist’s access to police blotters.

The NYPD has ordered the city’s 77 police precincts to stop giving out any information to the media about crimes taking place in their neighborhoods, cutting off a long-standing source of information for New Yorkers.

According to a terse NYPD edict transmitted citywide, precinct commanders were instructed: “Any requests by media to view complaint reports be referred to the office of the Deputy Commissioner For Public Information.”

This was first reported by Amanda Woods at The Nabe, who discovered this while attempting to do the site’s weekly rundown of the 88th Precinct’s police blotter.

Every Wednesday morning, a reporter from The Nabe visits the 88th Precinct and is handed forms outlining the previous week’s felony crime reports, which includes information on all murder, rape, assault, robbery, burglary or theft or property in the precinct. The reporter copies down the information, asks the officers lingering questions from the reports and writes up the crime blotter post. This will no longer be allowed. Reporters must now contact the Deputy Commissioner of Public Information (DCPI) for all crime inquiries, according to the officer.

Funneling everything through the DCPI creates an info bottleneck, as is surely the intention of this new policy. A source inside the police department said the DCPI is a “small unit” and would most likely be unable to cope with the influx of information requests.

Not only that, but the DCPI has already been pushed by Chief Ray Kelly to clamp down on the amount of information it releases to the public.

Under his stewardship, DCPI has systematically diminished the type of information it provides as well as overall access to department personnel. The clampdown evolved even though Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a media mogul, pledged that his administration would be a beacon of open government and transparency.

This leaves journalists with two options: queueing up for whatever scraps the DPCI might throw in its direction or filing FOIL requests. The latter is even less likely to result in any response, much less a timely one. The NYPD’s antagonistic attitude toward public information requests is well-documented. As Salon noted earlier this year, the NYPD stalls or denies a majority of requests, only begrudgingly parting with information when civil liberties groups (like the New York Civil Liberties Union) get involved.

So, unless journalists have an infinite amount of time and the willingness to go to court to battle for information they’re rightfully entitled to have, the NYPD will simply be able to play a waiting game, hoping those looking for info simply give up once the info requested loses its timeliness.

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Comments on “NYPD Now Preventing Journalists From Accessing Police Blotters”

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37 Comments
That One Guy (profile) says:

Another case of 'Too much connecting the dots'?

I have to wonder if the main reason for such a policy shift is the NYPD finding that handing out that information is exposing a lot more about their activities than they realized, or are comfortable with.

For example, the number of shots fired by officers compared to number of targets/bystanders/animals/unknown hit, is probably not something they are eager to have publicly known, given how bad it has been shown to be.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: My advice to journalists is...

Doesn’t apply here; it’s not classified information no matter how much the NYPD wants it to be, because the NYPD does not have the authority to officially classify information. And they couldn’t get a court order in time to stop them from going to press even if such an order were remotely legal. Which it would not be, for too many reasons to mention.

Anyway… it MIGHT be that the office will be able to handle the requests in a timely manner. Although I won’t hold my breath, since they apparently made this move because some precincts were giving this information and some were not, and reporters were pressuring the ones who did not to do so. The message is clear: ask questions we don’t want to answer, and we’ll cut you off from ALL information.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

There is an easy solution.
The headlines…

Crime so bad, NYPD unable to give accounting of it.

NYPD so overwhelmed by crime they can no longer provide data.

NYPD shifts crime stats to understaffed department, Coverup of growing problem?

Potential visitors to city denied crime statistics, go elsewhere.

Perhaps maybe if they start using the scare headlines against them, instead of in support of the claims, they might get results.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re:

While perhaps tempting, I think something like that would just play right into their hands, given they’ve been trying so hard to justify their actions with nothing but scaremongering(because when you have no real evidence, emotional ‘arguments’ are always a good fallback) about how if they have to follow the law, the terro- I mean the criminals will win.

Anonymous Coward says:

Ok then do this...

Report EVERYTHING that comes over the police scanner. If something sounds particularly interesting send a reporter to investigate and ask the witnesses yourself. If the police don’t want to share the information with the public take away their ability to have any control over how it is presented… period.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Ok then do this...

Can you imagine the cost of replacing the entire police force’s communications equipment to implement such a policy change, in addition to the cost of defending the legal challenges that are to be added to the ones that currently exist, should they be so foolish as to try to implement such a policy?

Unencrypted Means says:

Re: Re: Ok then do this...

In one sense, all electromagnetic communication streams are encrypted – that is the means by which you send a signal between transmitter and receiver that carries information. Both ends must be capable of converting the information to be sent to some variation within the signal sent.

However, since all electromagnetic communications use the same fundamental means, then anyone finding a means of converting the received signal to an understandable communication stream is committing the crime. If it is not a crime in any one situation using the techniques required it can be argued that it is not a crime in any situation.

What is oft forgotten is that communication requires a means and that means the means is open to being tapped by both desired and undesired recipients.

If the desired means to send communications is bought by one, then anyone who can buy that communications family will be able to listen in on the communications and it will be difficult to stop that from occurring.

So trying to stop this is just being mean.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Ok then do this...

If the desired means to send communications is bought by one, then anyone who can buy that communications family will be able to listen in on the communications and it will be difficult to stop that from occurring.

Not true. Encrypted communication systems such as radios still have to share a key to talk to each other. Just buying the same encrypted radio set won’t let you listen in if you don’t have that key.

The Real Michael says:

Interesting how this coincides with the NYPD sending out letters telling owners of rifles and shotguns with ammo capacity of over 5 rounds to hand in their guns. The state doesn’t have the authority to override the Constitution. Therefore, nobody should comply.

The actions of the NYC politicians and police are extremely suspicious.

Anonymous Coward says:

i would have thought that informing the public of perhaps an increase in burglaries might have meant6 the public were more vigilant with their own properties, ensuring they were locked securely and also kept a watchful eye on neighbours and their properties. with this attitude from NYPD and especially from the chief, who is obviously so far in Bloomberg pocket, he is almost being strangled, the crime rate could increase, giving more work for an over-stretched force. but then, being as secretive as possible is obviously more important than doing a job

Ninja (profile) says:

The NYPD has ordered the city’s 77 police precincts to stop giving out any information to the media about crimes taking place in their neighborhoods, cutting off a long-standing source of information for New Yorkers.

According to Mike Rogers crime has been eradicated. Since if we don’t see it happening then it hasn’t happened. Epic job NYPD! Can we dismantle them now?

John Washburn (user link) says:

NY PD using tactic #1

To quote from a decade old satire
A Guide To Hiding Records:
How to Avoid Complying with Wisconsin’s Open Records Law
http://www.gojefferson.com/banner/opinion/foust/hiding/

Tactic number 1 for hiding public records is: Deny the record exists.

The very fact that someone wants to see a record should give you a nice big hint that it might contain something juicy that you don’t want to reveal. This gives you a good opportunity to destroy the record. Take it home, hide it in a filing cabinet, or better yet, file it somewhere where only your successor will rediscover it. The shredder is your friend. If you can’t find it, they can’t get it.

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