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More than 320,000 accusations of misconduct against NYPD officers were released online on August 20 by the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) after a judge lifted an order that banned the organization from publishing the records. The treasure trove of complaints, which date back nearly four decades, reveal that less than 9,000 of the complaints led to discipline against officers.
The NYCLU published the database, housing 323,911 complaints, involving 81,550 active or former NYPD officers. The records were collected by the Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB), an independent agency that is tasked with investigating certain complaints against police officers over the alleged abuse of civilians.
In a statement announcing the database’s release, the NYCLU said that it is not uncommon for a single police-civilian incident to result in multiple complaints against the same officer or multiple officers. In fact, about 19,000 complaints—many of them filed before 2000—contained some identical allegations.
The database doesn’t include complaints that are pending an investigation.
“Until now, the police accountability process has been at the discretion of the NYPD, which determines which CCRB investigations result in discipline and what information is revealed from that process,” Christopher Dunn, Legal Director of the NYCLU, said in a statement. “History has shown the NYPD is unwilling to police itself. The release of this database is an important step towards greater transparency and accountability and is just the beginning of unraveling the monopoly the NYPD holds on public information and officer discipline.”
The database release follows the June repeal of 50-a, a law that allowed police disciplinary records to remain secret. The NYCLU obtained the data through a freedom of information request to the CCRB, but was barred from publishing it after a coalition of unions sued to block the release, according to Politico. That stay against the NYCLU was lifted on August 20, but a ban against the CCRB remains.
“Releasing this database was enabled by the New York State Legislature’s repeal of New York’s infamous police secrecy law, ’50-a,’ and is an important step toward greater transparency,” Monifa Bandele of Communities United for Police Reform (CPR) said in a statement to The North Star. “We remain committed to challenging the dangerous stronghold police unions have over New York City politics as we fight to protect the 50-a repeal.”
Bandele said CPR hopes the district court dismisses the police unions’ request for a preliminary injunction to block the CCRB from publishing officer misconduct information.
“The court decision this morning in no way means the battle to permit constitutionally guaranteed right to due process for public safety workers ceases,” Hank Sheinkopf, a spokesperson for the law enforcement unions, told Politico. “In fact, we continue to with the de Blasio administration and the improper dumping of thousands of documents containing unproven, career damaging, unsubstantiated allegations that put our members and their families at risk.”
You can see the complete database of complaints against NYPD officers here.
About the Author
Nicole Rojas is a senior writer for The North Star. She has published in various publications, including Newsweek, GlobalPost, IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, and the Long Island Post. Nicole graduated from Boston University in 2012 with a degree in print journalism. She is an avid world traveler who recently explored Europe, Asia, Australia and the Americas.