NYPD Suddenly Stops Making Disciplinary Documents Public; Cites 'Saving Paper,' 40-Year-Old Law
from the New-York-Civil-Code,-Sec.-GFY dept
The NYPD may not have time to update its Muslim surveillance policies or inform its officers of changes to its stop-and-frisk program, but it certainly has time to dig around for policies it can use to keep even more information out of the public’s hands.
The New York Daily News reports the NYPD has been paging through old laws and has found something that will be useful in further reducing the department’s accountability. (h/t Reason)
Citing a clause in a 40-year-old law, the NYPD has suddenly decided to keep records regarding the discipline of officers under lock and key — and will no longer release the information to the public, the Daily News has learned.
For decades, journalists have had access to “Personnel Orders.” The NYPD used to hang these on a clipboard in its public information office. The orders contained information about closed internal investigations of police misconduct — namely, by detailing promotions withheld, etc. Then, suddenly, the NYPD just stopped posting the orders.
When asked, the NYPD first claimed to be very interested in conserving renewable resources.
The clipboard has not been updated since April, when an order dated March 31 was posted. At the time, the NYPD told The News it was saving paper.
Then, when presumably asked if digital copies were going to be made available, the NYPD changed it story. The real reason is an NYPD lawyer with far too much time on their hands found a clause in a 1976 law that could serve as yet another departmental middle finger in the direction of transparency.
Asked what prompted the shift, Deputy Chief Edward Mullen, a police spokesman, said “somebody” in the department’s Legal Bureau realized that, for years, it had been giving out information it should not have.
Sure enough, the law appears to say what the NYPD says it says.
All personnel records used to evaluate performance toward continued employment or promotion, under the control of any police agency or department of the state… shall be considered confidential and not subject to inspection or review without the express written consent of such police officer, … correction officer or peace officer within the department of corrections and community supervision except as may be mandated by lawful court order.
But why is it doing this now? If it’s been handing out this info for “decades,” then it’s been posting the records publicly since shortly after the law was enacted that says it doesn’t have to without being presented with a court order. It appears the NYPD’s office is permanently tasked with finding ways to keep any details about officer misconduct away from the public. And the answer’s been staring the NYPD in the face since pretty much the moment it started posting personnel records.
The NYPD’s unofficial policy on transparency and accountability is to only address either if forced to. And yet, it claims it’s so open and transparent it can hardly stand it.
Police officials have argued the NYPD puts out more information than it ever has.
More crime stats and reports are posted online, precincts routinely use Twitter to provide updates and use-of-force reports will soon be provided to the City Council.
When you’re releasing only the sort of data that mainly details wrongdoing by others (crime stats, Twitter updates, arrest reports), then it’s really easy to be “open” and “transparent.” The stuff the NYPD is more reluctant to turn over (use-of-force reports) is still running through additional filters (the city council) before it ends up in the hands of the public.
What’s really of public interest now are details on police misconduct and how departments are handling internal investigations. And right at the height of this interest, the NYPD is using a 40-year-old law to cut the public out of the loop.