Legal Aid Unveils Partnership with Leading Criminal Justice Reform Advocates to Share Police Misconduct Data Collaboration Marks First in the Nation of Organizations Sharing Across a Central Database

The Legal Aid Society’s Cop Accountability Project announced a formal partnership with other local leading criminal justice reform organizations today to share their database of information concerning individual officers’ history of misconduct.

These organizations include The Bronx Defenders, Brooklyn Defender Services, New York County Defender Services, Neighborhood Defender Services of Harlem, Center for Appellate Litigation, Appellate Advocates, Office of the Appellate Defender, Federal Defenders of the Southern and Eastern Districts and the Innocence Project.

Organizations will be given limited access to a database that The Legal Aid Society has used internally since 2015. Currently, the database has information on over 38,000 officers, over 10,000 officers connected to misconduct and over 7,000 records of misconduct.

Legal Aid attorneys have already reported great success in using the database for favorable outcomes in bail applications, plea negotiations, motions for subpoenas, suppression, and dismissals as well as during cross examination at trial.

The organizations above entered into a formal partnership agreeing on protocol for sharing information, protecting client confidentiality and working together to make as much police misconduct information accessible to public defenders as possible.

The database includes information collected through public sources, such as lawsuits filed electronically on PACER, published incredibility and suppression decisions, news articles about police misconduct, and inappropriate and offensive postings by officers on their personal social media pages.

“Our Cop Accountability database has been a resource to analyze an array of information relating to police misconduct, ultimately equipping our attorneys with better tools to serve their clients,” said Tina Luongo, Attorney-In-Charge of the Criminal Defense Practice at The Legal Aid Society. “We look forward to growing this database with other local advocates and building on efforts to further illuminate foul conduct from the NYPD that continues to plague our clients, and black and brown communities.”

"The Bronx Defenders is proud to collaborate with the Legal Aid Society’s Cop Accountability Project," said Alice Fontier, managing director of the Criminal Defense Practice at The Bronx Defenders. "Every day in the Bronx, we see the impact of police abuse and misconduct on our clients, their families, and this community. The database is a vital step towards holding officers accountable for unjust and harmful policing practices. We thank The Legal Aid Society for sharing their information and look forward to working together to shine a light on police misconduct."

“Brooklyn Defender Services is proud to join The Legal Aid Society and other public defenders in launching this partnership, which will remove barriers to police officer accountability. Shared access to one database will help prevent wrongful convictions and protect New Yorkers from unwarranted pretrial detention. It will also help ensure that judges and prosecutors know about officers who have acted improperly in the past,” said Lisa Schreibersdorf, Executive Director of Brooklyn Defender Services.

“We are excited about gaining access to the Legal Aid Society’s police misconduct database. The database provides a wealth of information about police misconduct which had previously been difficult to obtain. We anticipate being able to use this information to assist our clients in challenging the legitimacy of their convictions where serious police misconduct is uncovered,” Claudia Trupp, Senior Supervising Attorney, Center for Appellate Litigation.

"We know from the nation's 351 DNA exonerations that police misconduct is a significant contributor to wrongful convictions," said Vanessa Potkin, Director of Post Conviction Litigation at the Innocence Project. "Having access to this data will be critically important in investigating possible wrongful convictions."

The Legal Aid Society of New York has created a game changer in criminal defense advocacy. The value of this database cannot be overstated. We need to grow and share this information in our efforts to protect our client communities from police misconduct,” said Stan Germán, Executive Director, New York County Defender Services.

“The Cop Accountability Project is an invaluable tool for confronting police misconduct. Too often, our clients are forced to litigate issues involving police misconduct with incomplete information about the arresting officers. This Project changes that and brings increased transparency to the criminal justice system,” said Matthew W. Knecht, Esq., Managing Attorney of the Criminal Defense Practice at The Neighborhood Defender Service of Harlem.