Court Victory Gives NYCLU Access to NYPD Shooting Reports

February 22, 2011 —  A State Supreme Court judge has ordered the NYPD to turn over to the New York Civil Liberties Union internal factual reports on all police shooting incidents since 1997.

“We hope this marks the beginning of the end of the secrecy around NYPD shootings,” said NYCLU Associate Legal Director Christopher Dunn, who is lead counsel in the case. “When a police officer fires at a civilian, it is good for the public and good for the police for there to be full disclosure of the facts. This order will make that happen.”

The judge’s order, issued Friday, covers two types of reports the NYPD creates after police officers fire their weapons at civilians: an initial investigatory report filed 24 hours after the incident, and a more detailed report completed 90 days after the shooting.

In November 2009, the NYCLU filed a lawsuit to gain access to the documents under the state’s Freedom of Information Law (FOIL). The NYPD had denied an NYCLU FOIL request, submitted in January 2009, for the records, withholding from the public as much as thousands of pages of basic facts about police shootings.

“Once again, the courts have rejected the NYPD’s pattern of withholding information from the public,” said NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman. “Fortunately the number of police shooting incidents is relatively small, but these reports are essential for the public to fully understand and assess the NYPD’s shooting practices. They will help us give New Yorkers the full story on police shootings, not the NYPD’s spin.”

The NYCLU began a concerted effort to obtain information on police shootings after NYPD officers shot and killed an unarmed Sean Bell in November 2006. In October 2007, it filed a FOIL request seeking access to the NYPD’s annual statistical reports on police shootings from 1996 through 2006 as well as data about the race of civilians shot at by police.

The NYPD produced the annual statistical reports, but it denied the request for racial data, forcing the NYCLU to sue for it. In December 2009, a State Supreme Court judge ordered the NYPD to disclose the racial data.