from the The-Man-sticks-it-to-the-public...-again dept
The NYPD is jerking around FOIL (Freedom of Information Law) requesters again. Usually, the NYPD just pretends it's the CIA (somewhat justified, considering its hiring of former government spooks) and claims everything is so very SECRET it couldn't possibly be edged out between the multiple exemptions it cites in its refusals.
It tried the usual deflectionary tactics with Shawn Musgrave, who's seeking the department's mandatory reports on firearms discharges by its officers. After five months of promising to get to his request, the NYPD finally sent out a response letter denying him access to every document he requested, citing a plethora of FOIL exemptions.
While the NYPD may be (purposefully) terrible at remembering pertinent FOIL-related court decisions, Musgrave isn't. He quickly responded with this:
The NYPD FOIL office has not claimed inability to find the requested 24-hour and 90-day reports following firearm discharges for 2010 through 2014. Rather, the NYPD errantly claims that these documents are exempt from release under FOIL for a variety of reasons.Having been reminded that the Supreme Court of its home state had previously said it couldn't do the very thing it was attempting to do, the NYPD's FOIL team regrouped. A month later it finally admitted Musgrave's appeal had been accepted. Three weeks after that, it told him it could have all the documents the state's highest court had declared any citizen could access... for the price of a late model SUV.
All of the cited exemptions are categorically incorrect. No less an authority than the Supreme Court of the State of New York has ruled as much in a case that is virtually identical to the present request.
In January 2009, the New York Civil Liberties Union submitted a FOIL request to the NYPD for 24-hour and 90-day shooting incident reports from 1997 through 2008 (see http://www.nyclu.org/case/nyclu-v-nypd-seeking-access-police-shooting-incident-reports). As you can see from my original request, these are precisely the same documents I seek.
The NYPD rejected that request, claiming that such reports were exempt from disclosure pursuant to:
1) Public Officers Law 87(2)(a), New York Civil Rights Law 50-a(1);
2) Public Officers Law 87(2)(b) and 89(2);
3) Public Officers Law 87(2)(e)(i-iv);
4) Public Officers Law 87(2)(f);
5) Public Officers Law 87(2)(g);
Conveniently, these are the same exemptions by which the NYPD FOIL office has rejected my present request. I will allow Judge Goodman's ruling in the NYCLU case (see http://www.nyclu.org/files/releases/NYCLU%20v%20%20NYPD%20Shooting%20FOIL%20decision%202-14-11.pdf) to address the invalidity of the NYPD's response in my own case:
"The issue is whether the 24-hour and 90-day firearms discharge incident reports are categorically exempt from disclosure under FOIL. After a careful review of the NYPD Firearms Discharge Manual containing the 28 section form for the 24-hour and 90-day firearms discharge incident report, the Court finds that these reports are not categorically exempt."
It is estimated that the copying fee for preparation of the requested copies, including redaction and copying thereof, is $42,000. Preparation of the copies will commence upon receipt of payment of in the form of a check or money order in the amount of $42,000, payable to New York City Police Department.The response doesn't explain how the NYPD reached this dollar amount. It simply states that it is the dollar amount the NYPD will be charging and that nothing will be done until the money is in its hands.
Having failed to discourage Musgrave with its bogus exemption ploy, the NYPD has gone for another favorite technique of open records request-resistant agencies: pricing requesters out of the market. Musgrave will certainly be appealing this estimate, but until forced to back down by higher authorities, the NYPD has successfully managed to evade yet another records request.