NYPD Must Give NYCLU Data on Race of People Shot at by Police

December 21, 2009 —  A State Supreme Court judge has ordered the NYPD to turn over to the New York Civil Liberties Union data concerning the race of all people who were shot at by police officers between 1997 and 2006.

The NYCLU sued the NYPD in August 2008 for access to racial data about police shooting victims. In response to the lawsuit, the NYPD agreed to disclose the race of people who were shot by police officers between 1997 and 2006. It refused to release racial data about people who had been shot at by police officers but not struck by the bullets.

In an opinion dated Dec. 15, Supreme Court Judge Joan A. Madden ruled that the NYPD had not met its burden under the state’s Freedom of Information Law to withhold the data.

“The records we’ve obtained thus far paints a troubling, but incomplete, picture of the NYPD’s shooting practices,” NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman said. “This new data will help us give New Yorkers the full story on police shootings, not the NYPD’s spin.”

The NYCLU launched 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 NYCLU’s request for racial data, forcing the NYCLU to sue for that information.

“The court’s decision makes clear that the NYPD had no basis for withholding this data, which is necessary to conduct a complete study of the role race plays in police shootings,” said NYCLU Associate Legal Director Christopher Dunn, lead counsel in the case. “This is a victory for the principle of open government and accountability to the public.”