The Legal Aid Society and Cleary Gottlieb File a Petition for Disclosure of NYPD Administrative Summaries of Police Officer Discipline

The Legal Aid Society and Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP are filing a petition in New York Supreme Court today demanding the NYPD release its administrative summaries of officer disciplinary outcomes, which previous administrations have made public for the past 40 years.

The Legal Aid Society submits this petition demanding the NYPD return to a practice it has followed for decades; the action demands disclosure of all disciplinary outcome summaries from 2011 to the present with strong evidence that these documents are subject to FOIL disclosure. We not only attach a supportive advisory opinion from the New York State Committee on Open Government but also photographs of the oldest public copy, dated January 5, 1972 and the most recent public copy, dated March 31, 2016.

In May, The Legal Aid Society submitted a Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request for the "Personnel Orders" to the NYPD, citing the already public nature of the materials. The NYPD denied the request and then informed The Legal Aid Society that it would not only deny its FOIL request, but that it also would no longer be making the summaries available to the media. Subsequently, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that while he was in favor of releasing the materials as a policy matter, he believed a provision of state law, Civil Rights Law 50-a, prohibited him from doing so. Though Civil Rights Law 50-a shields certain police records from public disclosure, the City's current interpretation of the law is overly restrictive and inconsistent with over 40 years of practice.

We strongly believe that transparency of the NYPD’s disciplinary decision-making is vital to rebuilding trust between the community and the police and that the City's interpretation of 50-a in favor of secrecy is a detriment to that process.

Here’s what our allies have to say:

  • “Transparency is part of building trust,” said Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer. “With hate crimes up and fear in the air, it’s never been more important to strengthen trust between our communities and our police force, and unnecessary secrecy won’t advance that goal. If this disciplinary information was deemed public before and the law hasn’t changed, then the administration should release it or offer a clear, convincing legal justification for why the previous practice was unlawful.”

  • "Now more than ever, people across the country hold genuine fears about looming government measures regarding accountability, security, and public safety. One thing that we don't want New Yorkers to be fearful of is what their local government is keeping from them. The members of the Black, Latino and Asian Caucus of the New York City Council express their continued outrage at the stance that the Police Department and the Administration have taken by shuttering access to critical records and contesting the public's demand for transparency in the courts."

  • “The City Council Progressive Caucus believes in government transparency, and supports the rights of families impacted by police violence to access officer records. We thank the Legal Aid Society for taking on this issue and will continue to support efforts toward police accountability for New Yorkers.”

  • “There is no excuse for New York City to be taking steps backwards on police transparency – it leaves communities most impacted by police abuses and misconduct at further risk and without accountability from the NYPD,” said Monifa Bandele, a spokesperson for Communities United for Police Reform. “The de Blasio administration’s self-serving reinterpretation of state law to conceal police disciplinary information that had been made public for approximately four decades – during past Republican and Democratic administrations alike – is a misuse of power to the detriment of the public’s interest. New Yorkers demanded and were promised real changes in policing and transparency, not regressive actions to cover NYPD wrongdoing under the guise of state law.”