NYCLU Sues Rochester Police Department for Withholding Public Records
Lawsuit challenges RPD’s unlawful retention of misconduct records following the repeal of 50-a
MONROE COUNTY, N.Y. — Today the New York Civil Liberties Union in partnership with Shearman & Sterling LLP filed an Article 78 proceeding against the Rochester Police Department for constructively denying the NYCLU’s requests for records related to police misconduct under the state Freedom of Information Law (FOIL).
In September 2020, the NYCLU submitted their FOIL request seeking public records specifically authorized to be disclosed under the state FOIL after the repeal of 50-a, a statute of the state civil rights code that had been used for years to bar the disclosure of police misconduct. The Rochester Police Department has not responded to the request, which sought documents related to disciplinary records, use of force, stops, civilian complaints, policies, investigative reports, diversity, trainings, and collective bargaining agreements. Nor has it provided a single document, claimed any exemptions, or responded to the administrative appeal filed in November 2020. Under state FOIL, administrative appeals require a response within ten business days.
“The Rochester Police Department cannot withhold disciplinary records to which the public is now legally entitled after the repeal of 50-a,” said Bobby Hodgson, senior staff attorney at the NYCLU. “Police transparency is now codified into law, and police departments can no longer respond to an investigation into pervasive patterns of discrimination by shielding these records with foot-dragging delays or by arguing that the police must be trusted to police themselves, immune from public scrutiny.”
The Rochester proceeding is part of a statewide police transparency campaign in which the NYCLU, with pro bono counsel from Latham & Watkins LLP, Milbank LLP, Shearman & Sterling LLP, Kirkland & Ellis LLP, Winston & Strawn LLP, and Simpson, Thacher, & Bartlett LLP, filed state FOIL requests with twelve police departments statewide and the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision requesting data about police and correctional officer misconduct with particular attention to the appearance of patterns of race-based policing.
“Amid the nationwide reckoning with police brutality and racial injustice following the killing of George Floyd, Daniel Prude, and countless others, the Rochester Police Department remains steadfast in ignoring requests for public records made on behalf of the constituents they have sworn to protect and serve,” said Lisa Laplace, senior staff attorney and counsel for pro bono at the NYCLU. “With the support and collaboration of our pro-bono partners, we will ensure no police department or corrections and community supervision department continues to hide the scale of their misconduct in New York State.”
You can find case materials here: https://www.nyclu.org/en/cases/nyclu-v-city-rochester-police-department
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