Searchable Databases Feature Information Obtained by Court Order Following 50-a Repeal
NEW YORK– Today, the New York Civil Liberties Union made available more than two decades of officer misconduct and use-of-force records from the New York State Police. These new interactive databases and officer look-ups, which feature tens of thousands of records, offer the public crucial insight into the force’s conduct and accountability. View the new data here.
Today’s disclosures resulted from the NYCLU and pro bono counsel Latham & Watkins’ 2022 Freedom of Information Law lawsuit against the State Police, the second-largest police force in New York with more than 4,700 uniformed officers. Prior to the repeal of section 50-a of the state civil rights law, such records were regularly withheld by departments incorrectly claiming their disclosure would violate state law.
“The true extent of the failure of the New York State Police oversight and disciplinary system was hidden from New Yorkers for decades by Section 50-a, but we’re now taking an important step to end this era of secrecy,” said Ify Chikezie, staff attorney at the NYCLU. “The data we made public today exposes two decades of impunity and overpolicing from the second largest police force in New York State. We will continue to analyze this data, and hope these searchable databases help New Yorkers understand the rampant state police misconduct that is happening within their communities.”
An initial review of records finds that:
- Only 7 percent of the nearly 2,300 misconduct investigations on use-of-force incidents were “founded” by the NYSP’s internal investigations division, meaning it determined misconduct occurred.
- Only 5 percent of the nearly 500 investigations that referenced racial or religious discrimination were founded.
- Of 18,233 total alleged acts of misconduct, nearly 7,500 were founded. However, over half of these officers were given no more than a slap on the wrist.
- Officers engaged in 5,554 reported use-of-force incidents, including the use of tasers and pepper spray, often during non-criminal enforcement actions like traffic stops and during mental health crises.
- Officers deployed pepper spray in 36 percent of mental health responses in which force was used and used tasers in 20 percent.
These disclosures come as part of the NYCLU’s statewide police transparency initiative, in which the NYCLU and pro bono counsel filed state FOIL requests with twelve police departments statewide and the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision. As part of this campaign, the NYCLU has filed lawsuits against the New York State Police, as well as police departments in Rochester, Syracuse, Freeport, Troy, Yonkers, Buffalo, Nassau County and Suffolk County for withholding public records.
Courts statewide have rejected the vast majority of efforts to thwart accountability and disclosure following the repeal of 50-a. This includes two November 2022 decisions from the Fourth Department representing the first appellate-level decisions on the effect of 50-a’s repeal. In those appeals, arising from the NYCLU’s lawsuits against the Syracuse and Rochester police departments, the Appellate Division ruled that police departments must disclose open and unsubstantiated disciplinary records, as well as records predating the 2020 repeal of Section 50-a, to the public. The Rochester case is now headed to the New York Court of Appeals.
For more information on the statewide initiative, please visit: https://www.nyclu.org/en/campaigns/new-york-police-transparency-database