by Douglas Ankney
In June 2023, the Legal Aid Society made available to the public a new database with over 450,000 searchable records of New York Police Department (“NYPD”) and Department of Corrections (“DOC”) officers with the goal of shining a light on the actions of the NYPD and the DOC. It’s relatively simple to use, just enter an officer’s name, and the Law Enforcement Look Up enables users to find and review lawsuit records, Civilian Complaint Review Board records of allegations, internal misconduct records, District Attorney and Judicial records, media reports, and payroll documents as well as some DOC staff discipline records.
With the repeal of New York Civil Rights Law 50-a (which had allowed law enforcement agencies to refuse access to “personnel records used to evaluate performance toward continued employment or promotion”), the Law Enforcement Look Up came to fruition. “This is a shining example of what collaborative efforts can achieve,” said Jennvine Wong, a staff attorney with the Legal Aid Society’s Cop Accountability Project. “We’ve pulled data from so many different sources. It was FOILing, it was getting it from investigative journalists, it was getting it from our allies, it was getting submissions from civil rights attorneys and from criminal defense attorneys. It was records we were able to share because of the repeal of 50-a, which of course was achieved through the efforts of so many different grassroots organizations and activists and advocates. This is a testament to a collective effort for transparency.”
That so many different sources were woven together to create the database speaks volumes about the NYPD’s uncooperative stance against records requests regarding officer misconduct. According to the Police Data Transparency Index from the Vera Institute of Justice, the NYPD is one of the 10 lowest scoring police departments regarding transparency and officer-misconduct complaints.
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