Media Contact

Arianna Fishman, media@nyclu.org, 212-607-3372

January 15, 2021

Motion asks court to dismiss police union’s effort to significantly delay releasing the full scope of misconduct records to the public

MONROE COUNTY – Today the New York Civil Liberties Union in partnership with Shearman & Sterling LLP filed a motion to intervene in a lawsuit brought by the Rochester Police Locust Club seeking an indeterminate delay in the City of Rochester’s production of any police officer disciplinary records. The union argues for a lengthy redaction process under the control of the police officers’ collective bargaining representatives, a procedure that would impair and delay the public’s right to disciplinary records following the repeal of 50-a. Specifically, the union proposes that every individual officer be given an indefinite amount of time to review disciplinary records Rochester intends to make public. In its motion, the NYCLU asks the court to dismiss the Locust Club’s lawsuit in its entirety.

In December 2020, the NYCLU filed its own proceeding against the Rochester Police Department for constructively denying the NYCLU’s requests for records related to police misconduct under the state Freedom of Information Law (FOIL). Later that month, following NYCLU intervention, a State Supreme Court Judge in Schenectady reaffirmed that the repeal of 50-a means that all complaints must be produced under FOIL, and that FOIL’s privacy exemption cannot re-establish 50-a under another name.

“The Rochester Police Locust Club’s request would add potentially monumental new delays to an already slow FOIL process—delays that state FOIL neither allows nor requires,” said Bobby Hodgson, senior staff attorney at the NYCLU. “Police unions cannot seek an undetermined amount of time for individual law enforcement officers to sign off on the release of their own disciplinary records. Amid protests against police violence and the reckoning following the killing of Daniel Prude, Rochester residents have the right to know the substance and volume of complaints made against their officers without unnecessary delay.” 

The motion is part of a statewide police transparency campaign in which the NYCLU, with pro bono counsel from Latham & Watkins LLP, Milbank LLP, Shearman & Sterling LLP, Kirkland & Ellis LLP, Winston & Strawn LLP, and Simpson, Thacher, & Bartlett LLP, filed state FOIL requests with twelve police departments statewide and the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision requesting data about police and correctional officer misconduct with particular attention to the appearance of patterns of race-based policing.

“We believe the NYCLU’s intervention in this case is necessary to ensure that the public’s interest in the prompt and full disclosure of police officer disciplinary records is fairly represented before the court,” said Philip Urofsky, partner at Shearman & Sterling LLP. “Shearman & Sterling is proud to represent the NYCLU in its efforts to shed light on records that have been kept hidden from the public for decades under 50-a.”

You can find case materials here: https://www.nyclu.org/en/cases/rochester-police-locust-club-v-city-rochester-et-al