NYPD Still Blowing The Public's Money To Keep The Public From Seeing The NYPD's Misconduct Records

from the less-they-know-the-better-they'll-be-served...-or-whatever dept

The NYPD is still spending taxpayers’ money to prevent taxpayers from accessing police misconduct records. The latest fight over these records was prompted by the New York legislature, which repealed the law that allowed the NYPD to deny the public access to this information last summer.

Since then, the NYPD and other first responder agencies have been attempting to litigate their way back to opacity. New York law enforcement agencies — represented by their unions — secured a temporary injunction blocking the release of these records last fall, setting the stage for even more expenditure of public funds to argue for the further screwing of the public these agencies are supposed to be serving.

Additional litigation was prompted by Mayor Bill de Blasio’s unsealing of disciplinary records in response to the law’s repeal. NYPD officers and city firefighters filed their own suit following ProPublica’s publication of the unsealed records. The NYPD’s union was able to secure an injunction prior to this publication, but it was completely nullified by ProPublica’s reporting, which put everything it had obtained from the CCRB (Civilian Complaint Review Board) — which has its own copies of NYPD misconduct files — online in a searchable database.

This transparency genie can’t be put back into the bottle, but that isn’t stopping the litigants from trying to obtain a judicial order demanding this impossibility. US District Court Judge Katherine Polk acknowledged last year any order she might issue would be unable to “reach backwards in time” and reverse the publication of this info.

The unions are back in court, claiming the release of this info by the CCRB (and its subsequent publication) has created a danger that can only be addressed with a history-erasing court order.

Anthony Coles, an attorney at DLA Piper representing the unions, told the panel of judges Tuesday that police officers received “chilling threats” made to officers at the time the records release was first announced.

Even if true, there’s nothing the court can do about it now. And, as the court points out, it was up to the plaintiffs to argue this point effectively prior to asking the court for yet another restraining order.

U.S. Circuit Judge Raymond Lohier faulted the unions, however, for failing to get specific in support of their claim that the repeal of the records-sealing law in the New York Constitution created irrevocable harm.

“As I understand it, there’s nothing in the record that indicates that the unions were able to come up with anything,” Lohier said.

Vague post-facto complaints aren’t going to move the dial. But the unions — and the public employees they represent — are apparently hoping hysterical rhetoric delivered inside and outside the court might. But there’s some encouraging pushback, led by police reformers, who point out the hypocrisy of cops claiming negative information hurts them while simultaneously dragging every victim of police violence through the mud in hopes of exonerating cops for killing or maiming citizens.

Here’s Tiffany R. Wright of Communities United for Police Reform speaking up about the NYPD’s pattern and practice of besmirching its victims:

Negative information about people killed by police has been allowed to circulate “in the public square,” she continued, while disciplinary records have not been public, making for a “one-sided, unfair” conversation.

That’s the way things have been for far too long. Only recently — and only with the repeal of a law that allowed cops to shield themselves from public scrutiny — has the balance of power started to shift. But never mind the courtroom hysterics: the NYPD (and other NY public agencies) still wield most of the power. This shift towards accountability isn’t seismic. But hopefully it’s more than incremental. It appears these agencies will do everything in their power to prevent it from shifting any further. And they’ll be spending the public’s money to do it.

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Comments on “NYPD Still Blowing The Public's Money To Keep The Public From Seeing The NYPD's Misconduct Records”

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10 Comments
This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
That One Guy (profile) says:

Maybe it's you

Never mind the gross hypocrisy in how they treat records relating to anyone on the receiving end of police ‘attention’ compared to how they want to treat records relating to their own actions, if releasing records relating to your actions on the job is enough to get the public pissed off enough that they’re willing to send threats to cops, something that is likely to get the attention of judges and prosecutors real quick, that might be a good indicator that you’re doing something horribly, horribly wrong.

Bergman (profile) says:

Just imagine...

Just imagine how the cops would react if someone reacted to a police warrant or subpoena the way the police react to anyone else’s – obstruct, deny, delay, ‘lose’ paperwork, ‘forget’ where the files are kept, etc.

It’s just as illegal to violate a public records law as it is to ignore a subpoena, so how is it that people sworn and paid to enforce the law can do it, while those who have no special obligation can’t?

Anonymous Coward says:

So with the publication of all this data by ProPublica, am I correct in assuming that when a cop testifies in court, the defense can respond with any negative data they find in these records? I think before this, the defense, with only a few exceptions, was forced the assume the cops testifying against their clients were always honest and so couldn’t challenge their testimony. If true, that’s a gigantic game changer and one long overdue.

Philosopherott (profile) says:

Quick Question

Before the question, I want to state that transparency into the work records of public servants should be a right of the people.

OK now the Question. If this is the police Union(s) suing, how is the NYPD wasting the public’s money (in this situation)? Would the Unions funds to pay lawyers come from money already paid to the officers, that comes out of their check like other Union dues?

Appreciate any edification.

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