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July 25, 2018

Behind the Badge is a new searchable database bringing transparency and accountability to how the police interact with their communities in New York State

NEW YORK – The New York Civil Liberties Union launched today a new online resource, Behind the Badge, to house internal policies and data from police departments across New York State. The resource brings new transparency and accountability to police-community interactions with documents and data from seven departments around the state. Nearly two dozen public records requests and analysis of over 15,600 pages of documents, received with the help of court orders in some cases, revealed that there are very few rules that police the police in New York State. 
“Too many police departments in New York resist transparency, keeping the rules hidden on everything from when officers use weapons to how they handle misconduct,” said NYCLU executive director Donna Lieberman. “With so much at stake, there have to be clear rules that police the police. The public deserves to know what those rules are and have the opportunity to ensure they are not being abused.” 
The NYCLU requested polices and data on basic police functions and operations, including the use of force, police stops, efforts to combat bias, department diversity, and use of surveillance technology from 23 departments across the state. The database launched today with annotated policies and analysis of data from seven New York departments: Albany, Buffalo, Nassau, Rochester, Suffolk, Syracuse and White Plains, with more coming soon. 
The site makes public the internal rules, policies and training material (or lack thereof) guiding police interactions with the community, and analyses data (where available) regarding police stops, uses of force, and department diversity. Key takeaways from the material released today include: 
  • The Albany Police Department entirely lacked policies for when and how officers could stop civilians 
  • The Nassau County Police Department was unable produce the most basic information on the number of stops and low-level arrests by officers 
  • The Buffalo Police Department failed to produce any policies or trainings addressing racial profiling 
  • The training materials for the Syracuse Police Department encouraged officers to “reduce hesitation” to use force 
“We combed through tens of thousands of pages to find out how police departments train and guide their officers on interacting with the community,” said Michael Sisitzky, NYCLU lead policy counsel. “We found that not only do many departments give nearly no guidance to officers on when they can use force and when it is okay to stop and search people, but they also fail to track and evaluate when these common police practices result in racial disparities and excessive force.”
The policies and data published on the Behind the Badge site include annotations and analysis to help advocates, policymakers and journalists understand how police operate and how the rules that govern their interactions with the community can be strengthened.
To explore the database, please visit: