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Judge orders NYPD to start disclosing police misconduct records to nonprofit news outlet

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  1. Freedom of Information
“The disclosure of these police misconduct records is long overdue," said RCFP Staff Attorney Gunita Singh.
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Photo by edwardhblake, via Flickr

A New York judge has ordered the New York City Police Department to stop dragging its feet and finally begin disclosing police misconduct records to THE CITY, a nonprofit news outlet that first requested the documents nearly two years ago. 

In a ruling issued last week, Justice Lyle E. Frank of the New York Supreme Court gave the NYPD 10 days to start making monthly productions of at least 1,000 pages until all responsive records have been disclosed. The judge’s decision was handed down after attorneys from the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and Davis Wright Tremaine notified the court on behalf of THE CITY that the NYPD had repeatedly failed to comply with an agreement that required the police department to begin turning over records back in May. 

“We welcome the court’s decision, which will finally force the NYPD to meet its obligations under New York’s Freedom of Information Law,” said Reporters Committee Staff Attorney Gunita Singh, one of the attorneys litigating the case on behalf of THE CITY. “The disclosure of these police misconduct records is long overdue, and our client looks forward to receiving the first production soon.”

Yoav Gonen, a reporter for THE CITY, first requested the police misconduct records in August 2022. The request came two years after New York lawmakers repealed Section 50-a of New York’s Civil Rights Law, a controversial provision long used to shield police misconduct records from public scrutiny.

The NYPD denied Gonen’s request last summer. The police department claimed that the request was unduly burdensome, and that the records at issue were protected from disclosure under the state’s public records law.

With free legal support from attorneys at the Reporters Committee and Davis Wright Tremaine, THE CITY sued the NYPD for unlawfully withholding the records. 

“Access to these records is necessary for [THE CITY] to provide the public with in-depth reporting about how the NYPD — the largest municipal police force in the U.S. — handles investigations into allegations of misconduct and issues discipline,” the news outlet’s attorneys argued in a brief filed in support of the lawsuit.

Months later, attorneys for the NYPD agreed to begin producing responsive records by no later than May 17. But after that deadline came and went without the release of even a single page, THE CITY’s attorneys asked the court in late May to order the police department to comply with the agreement — a request they reiterated in a subsequent filing after the NYPD filed no response in opposition.

In a two-page order, Justice Frank granted the news outlet’s request on June 7. In addition to requiring the NYPD to begin disclosing responsive records, the judge ordered the police department to pay THE CITY’s attorneys’ fees.

The Reporters Committee regularly files friend-of-the-court briefs and its attorneys represent journalists and news organizations pro bono in court cases that involve First Amendment freedoms, the newsgathering rights of journalists and access to public information. Stay up-to-date on our work by signing up for our monthly newsletter and following us on Twitter or Instagram.

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