Conti-Cook Discusses NYPD Lack of Transparency on Disciplined Officers on WNYC
THURSDAY, AUGUST 25, 2016

Cynthia Conti-Cook, Staff Attorney in the Special Litigation Unit of the Criminal Practice, was on WNYC today discussing the lack of transparency by the NYPD on disciplined officers.

The Daily News in an exclusive article revealed that the NYPD has suddenly decided to keep records regarding the discipline of officers under lock and key — and will no longer release the information to the public. The NYPD denied Conti-Cook's request for personnel orders. For decades, reporters have had access to a “Personnel Orders” clipboard hanging in the department’s public information office. It listed administrative cases closed out either by a plea deal or by an internal trial held at 1 Police Plaza. It also listed promotions and retirements.




NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
EXCLUSIVE: NYPD suddenly stops sharing records on cop discipline in move watchdogs slam as anti-transparency
By Rocco Parascandola and Graham Rayman
August 24, 2016

So much for transparency.

Citing a clause in a 40-year-old law, the NYPD has suddenly decided to keep records regarding the discipline of officers under lock and key — and will no longer release the information to the public, the Daily News has learned.

Critics say the policy change flies in the face of openness claims by Police Commissioner Bill Bratton and Mayor de Blasio. Instead, it raises concerns that the outcomes of department trials could be cloaked in secrecy — even proceedings in headline-grabbing cases like the chokehold death of Eric Garner.

“I think it’s part of a larger pattern of secrecy by the NYPD,” said Adam Marshall, a legal fellow with the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. “It’s hard to imagine information more in the public interest, and the public interest in determining what has happened in these types of adjudications is incredibly important.”

Citing a clause in a 40-year-old law, the NYPD has suddenly decided to keep records regarding the discipline of officers under lock and key — and will no longer release the information to the public, the Daily News has learned.

Critics say the policy change flies in the face of openness claims by Police Commissioner Bill Bratton and Mayor de Blasio. Instead, it raises concerns that the outcomes of department trials could be cloaked in secrecy — even proceedings in headline-grabbing cases like the chokehold death of Eric Garner.

“I think it’s part of a larger pattern of secrecy by the NYPD,” said Adam Marshall, a legal fellow with the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. “It’s hard to imagine information more in the public interest, and the public interest in determining what has happened in these types of adjudications is incredibly important.”

For decades, reporters have had access to a “Personnel Orders” clipboard hanging in the department’s public information office. It listed administrative cases closed out either by a plea deal or by an internal trial held at 1 Police Plaza. It also listed promotions and retirements.

The clipboard has not been updated since April, when an order dated March 31 was posted. At the time, the NYPD told The News it was saving paper.

This week, the NYPD changed the story, saying a cop’s disciplinary record was protected by section 50-a of the 1976 state Civil Rights Law.

Asked what prompted the shift, Deputy Chief Edward Mullen, a police spokesman, said “somebody” in the department’s Legal Bureau realized that, for years, it had been giving out information it should not have.

It was through the personnel orders that The News learned in March that the NYPD had rescinded the promotion of Lt. Vincent Molinini who was set to become commanding officer of the detective unit in the force investigation division.

Molinini, 44, Detective Christopher Corulla and Detective Frank Muirhead were previously suspended for their involvement in a booze-fueled Feb. 26 debacle, which ended with Corulla crashing his car into a Staten Island hair salon. Molinini lost the promotion on March 11, and the record showing the withdrawal was posted March 18.

In a related development, the NYPD in an Aug. 8 letter to Legal Aid Society lawyer Cynthia Conti-Cook denied her request for personnel orders.

The letter, from Jonathan David, a records access appeals officer, suggested that the Legal Bureau wasn’t aware of the clipboard until Conti-Cook mentioned it.

Police officials have argued the NYPD puts out more information than it ever has.

More crime stats and reports are posted online, precincts routinely use Twitter to provide updates and use-of-force reports will soon be provided to the City Council.

But critics said the NYPD is misinterpreting section 50-a, which protects officers’ personnel records from public release unless there’s an order from a judge.

De Blasio, who has also faced criticism for a lack of transparency, is on vacation. Mayoral spokesman, Eric Phillips, had no comment.

As public advocate, de Blasio released a report that gave the NYPD a failing grade for disclosure of public information. He recommended city agencies be fined for ignoring Freedom of Information Law requests. And he said agencies should be required file monthly reports to the public advocate and City Council. None of those proposals have been implemented.

De Blasio has since been blasted for turning his back on his own calls for open public records and creating the term “agents of the city” to keep correspondence between City Hall and outside political advisors under wraps.

De Blasio’s top lawyer, Corporation Counsel Zachary Carter, would not say whether he weighed in on the NYPD’s decision.

The Civilian Complaint Review Board and current Public Advocate Letitia James also had no comment.

Dick Dadey, the executive director of the government watchdog group Citizens Union, said cops “are a different kind of employee” because they have the power to take a life.

“We need to have trust in their actions,” he said. “We need to balance the rights of officers against the people’s right to know how cases of police misconduct are being handled, especially when their actions are being directed at members of the public.”

Christopher Dunn, associate legal director for the New York Civil Liberties Union, said the change, at a time when the public wants more police accountability, “is a troubling example of the NYPD becoming more secret and thus less accountable.”