September 30, 2021

Entire databases of NYPD offenses including racial profiling and sexual misconduct remain shrouded in secrecy

NEW YORK CITY – The New York Civil Liberties Union filed a new lawsuit against the NYPD for unlawfully denying the NYCLU’s requests for the full slate of NYPD databases related to police misconduct authorized to be disclosed following the repeal of 50-a.

The NYPD initially published a very narrow set of final NYPD-substantiated internal disciplinary decisions on their website in March 2021. These records only cover substantiated misconduct that proceeded through an internal administrative trial—records that only cover a small portion of misconduct complaints and disciplinary records held by the NYPD. Following publication, the NYCLU submitted a Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request seeking every database containing records on officers who have faced any allegations of misconduct, regardless of whether they proceeded to investigatory or trial phases. Specifically, this request sought NYPD disciplinary records resulting in internal officer discipline and complaints that did not.

“By no means has the NYPD entered a new era of transparency by disclosing only those misconduct complaints that they themselves deemed worthy of prosecution,” said Lupe Aguirre, staff attorney at the NYCLU. “NYPD officers cannot be trusted to investigate and discipline themselves, and New Yorkers have a right to know the substance and outcome of all NYPD complaints. We are suing the NYPD today to vindicate New Yorkers’ right to complete information about the misconduct that takes place within their communities.”

The NYCLU’s NYPD Misconduct Database contains information about more than 279,600 misconduct complaints dating back to the 1980s. The NYCLU obtained these records via FOIL from the NYC Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB), the independent agency that investigates complaints about police abuse of civilians. The NYCLU is today seeking database records of misconduct allegations that were not subject to CCRB scrutiny, including records showing whether the allegations were investigated and any resulting NYPD disciplinary action. This includes complaints that until recently were not under CCRB jurisdiction, such as complaints of sexual misconduct and racial profiling.  

Today’s lawsuit is the next step in our ongoing effort to provide the public with complete information about how the NYPD investigates misconduct and disciplines officers,” said Christopher Dunn, legal director at the NYCLU. “We will continue to work to ensure the repeal of section 50-a leads to actual transparency and public access to documents about police misconduct long withheld from the public.”

Following the repeal of 50-a, the NYCLU, with pro bono counsel from seven major law firms, launched a statewide police transparency campaign by filing 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 police departments in Rochester, Syracuse, Freeport, Troy and Buffalo for withholding public records subject to state FOIL. Courts statewide have rejected the vast majority of efforts to thwart accountability and disclosure following the repeal of 50-a, including in Schenectady following NYCLU intervention.

You can find case materials here: