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.

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Comments on “NYPD Foils FOIL Request For NYPD FOIL Handbook”

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btrussell (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Um...


“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.”


That One Guy (profile) says:

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.

That One Guy (profile) says:

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.

Anonymous Coward says:

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.

Anonymous Coward says:

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

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