NYPD Claims It Can't Find 'Widely-Circulated' Memo That Cut Off Press Access To Precinct Crime Blotters

from the [sound-of-burning-paper] dept

MuckRock is again reporting on a mysteriously missing document -- one that was previously acknowledged to exist but come public records request time, simply can't be found.

A couple of months ago, it was the FBI claiming that a Drone Impact Assessment it had previously "released" in response to an FOIA request (read: redacted in full) suddenly couldn't be located. Now, it's the gold standard of Freedom of Information obfuscation -- the New York Police Department -- claiming the same thing.

In December 2013, the NYPD ordered its 77 precinct commanders to route reporters’ requests for crime reports through the agency’s press office, rather than release these documents directly. So where’s the order itself?

More than fifteen months after MuckRock requested it, the NYPD has a rather familiar answer: we couldn’t find it.
It's not as though the document never existed. The NYPD's decision to deny journalists access to its crime blotters -- something it had allowed for decades previously -- was heavily criticized by a variety of outlets (including this one). The document's existence was even acknowledged by the NYPD's Deputy Commissioner of Public Information, who claimed it was nothing more than a reiteration of previously-existing policy. (If so, then it had never been enforced until the distribution of this suddenly-nonexistent memo.)

But now, more than a year after it was first requested, the NYPD's FOIL response team claims the document everyone was talking about several months ago just isn't there.
In regards to the document(s) you requested, this unit is unable to locate documents responsive to your request based on the information provided.
In addition to the documents MuckRock didn't receive, the NYPD is expected to not answer MuckRock's follow-up question sometime within the next 12-18 months.
MuckRock has emailed the NYPD’s DCPI [Deputy Commissioner of Public Information] to request clarification as to how this order was so widely disseminated throughout the department without being put in writing.
Perhaps the last words of the memo were, "BURN AFTER READING?"

And so, the NYPD continues on in its quest to leave no FOIL request unthwarted. I'd say it has its work cut out for it, but it's already been touted as "worse than the CIA, NSA and FBI" in the Information Doesn't Want to Be Free category. Between its generally frosty exterior and its no-oversight-needed in-house document classification, the NYPD continues to put other reluctant participants in open records laws to shame.

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Filed Under: crime blotter, foia, foil, journalism, new york, nypd

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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Apr 2015 @ 4:38pm


    FOILed again!

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

  2. identicon
    J. R., 1 Apr 2015 @ 4:50pm

    FOIA response

    Well, its a little more civil than ,"F* off," but would seem to be the same sentiment. Could be a CYA gambit in the unlikely event a judge gets involved, in which case it will get found as soon as someone on the NYPD is threatened with jail for contempt.

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

  3. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Apr 2015 @ 4:54pm

    There is no longer any accountability to the public over the taxes they spend. I would recommend a new law, that if the info can not be revealed, short of national security or investigation then all public funding should be pulled until such time as the law is met. That includes the time factor. Any failure to meet the law's intent should be a personal fine to the head of the branch or office figure head.

    I mean from the president right on down to the local cop shop.

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

  4. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Apr 2015 @ 4:58pm

    why don't doesn't the president just remove the FOIA, the illusion it used to give that people had a way of ensuring transparency has been proven to be nonexistent at this point. he has already exempted various groups from it.

    I cannot imagine there being that much of an outcry over its removal when people take no action when its ignored by those that are sent FOIA forms.

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

  5. identicon
    Anonymous Anonymous Coward, 1 Apr 2015 @ 5:34pm


    I was about to say that the NYPD and other agencies have issues with finding their own asses, with both hands, a magnifying glass, and satellite surveillance when they don't make up the circumstances.

    But after reading the article, I have to fall back to: not knowing what one is supposed to know is predicated on the amount of money paid by others than their employer (us). The money may be interpreted as life threatening or threats against loved ones from interested individuals or groups (I am in no way implying that unions are involved (SHHHHH, Wink, Wink, nods to come)).

    I keep thinking, what could be done to correct this?, and then think about, well if we do come up with a good correction, who the hell is gonna enforce it? We cannot trust legislators. We cannot trust various levels of executive (local, state, national). They control the military might, though are prescribed against using it against us (go ahead, laugh). And the courts are seemingly wishy washy as to doing the right thing, rather than doing things right.

    If these collective idiots actually sat down and thought this through, they would come to the same understanding that I have...and they would then call me a terrorist (there is a big difference between what I am thinking and what other folks considered subversive are thinking but there are some similarities).

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

  6. icon
    That One Guy (profile), 1 Apr 2015 @ 6:11pm

    "You mean this document, the one that I am holding right now? Nope, sorry, it doesn't seem to exist."

    I wonder how long it will take before the various FOIA denying agencies take this to the next step? Insist that the one submitting FOIA request have to do so in person, just so they can blatantly light the requested documents on fire, perhaps via a mini-stove, all the while looking straight at the requester and telling them that the documents simply don't exist.

    I mean, they basically already do that already, destroying documents when they might be inconvenient, at this point there's not much more blatant they could be about it short of the above suggestion.

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

  7. identicon
    Inspector Gadget, 1 Apr 2015 @ 7:52pm

    M.A.D. Agents, disguised as reporters, are reading the Crime Blotters

    Blah, blah, blah...
    Don't give Reporters Crime Blotters.
    Blah, Blah, blah...

    This message will self destruct.

    Here ya go, Chief.


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

  8. icon
    Andrew "K`Tetch" Norton (profile), 1 Apr 2015 @ 8:10pm

    I'm just surprised they could find the request in order to respond to it...

    Maybe I should file a patent on 'method of misplacing open records requests and related papers in order to avoid compliance' oh yeah '...on a computer' (can't believe I almost forgot that essential last bit!)

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

  9. identicon
    Rekrul, 1 Apr 2015 @ 11:28pm

    I wonder how that would work if normal people tried it...

    Cop: License and registration.

    Driver: I'm sorry, but I am unable to locate any responsive documents to your request.

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

  10. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 2 Apr 2015 @ 4:22am

    Re: Cause....Effect

    when all else fails there is always revolution

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

  11. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 2 Apr 2015 @ 6:51am


    That's a tazin'

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

  12. identicon
    Zonker, 2 Apr 2015 @ 11:16am

    If they cannot locate the order for the FOIA request, then the order effectively does not exist and should not be followed by any of their officers. Thus journalists should once again have unhindered access to police crime blotters. If not, then they must show the memo where such orders were given.

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

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