At issue in this case is whether incident reports prepared by police officers pertaining to the use of force are subject to production pursuant to the New York Freedom of Information Law (FOIL). On April 24, 2000, the NYCLU sent a FOIL request to the City of Schenectady asking for, among other things, its reports on the use of force by police officers against civilians. The city failed to produce the requested documents even after the State Committee on Open Government issued an advisory opinion concluding that the city had failed to comply with FOIL.
On July 25, 2001, the NYCLU filed an Article 78 proceeding alleging that the city violated FOIL by neither producing the requested records nor submitting a sufficient justification for its failure to do so. The city then produced certain other documents that the NYCLU had requested, but claimed that incident reports prepared by police officers pertaining to use of force are covered by a blanket exemption from FOIL under Public Officers Law § 87(2)(g)(i), (ii) and (iii). On May 28, 2002, the Supreme Court upheld the city’s claim, which was then unanimously affirmed by the Appellate Division, Third Department. The NYCLU appealed to the New York Court of Appeals. In that court, the city announced to the court that a "misunderstanding" had occurred, and that the city did not actually have a "use of force" form that had been the focus of the case. The city had not wanted to search through all their standard incident reports to filter out which ones had involved the "use of force." The court then refused to decide the issue, as it was now merely academic to decide whether non-existent forms would fall under the FOIL exemption. Instead, the court reversed the Appellate Division and ordered the matter remitted to the Supreme Court for further proceedings in accordance with the decision. On Aug. 16, 2004, a conference was held between the attorneys for both parties and Supreme Court Justice Caruso. The City of Schenectady subsequently provided the NYCLU with documents on the use of force by police officers for the years 2002-2004.
State Supreme Court, Schenectady County, Index No. 2001-1441 (direct)