ProPublica releases thousands of NYPD disciplinary records shielded from public view

ProPublica on Sunday released a searchable database consisting of thousands of New York Police Department disciplinary records that state law had shielded from public view for decades.

The state of play: State lawmakers voted to repeal the statute in the wake of the police killing of George Floyd, but a federal judge issued a temporary restraining order blocking the release of the records after unions for police officers, firefighters and corrections officers sued the city. ProPublica is not a party to the lawsuit and chose to move forward with releasing the records.

What they’re saying: “We are making this information public, and, with it, providing an unprecedented picture of civilians’ complaints of abuse by NYPD officers as well as the limits of the current system that is supposed to hold officers accountable,” wrote ProPublica’s deputy managing editor Eric Umansky.

  • “We understand the arguments against releasing this data. But we believe the public good it could do outweighs the potential harm,” added editor in chief Stephen Engelberg.
  • “The database gives the people of New York City a glimpse at how allegations involving police misconduct have been handled, and allows journalists and ordinary citizens alike to look more deeply at the records of particular officers.”

The big picture: The database names active-duty officers who have had at least one allegation against them substantiated by New York’s Civilian Complaint Review Board. That’s about 4,000 officers out of 36,000.

  • 303 active-duty officers have had at least five substantiated allegations against them, according to the database.
  • The data describes almost 5,000 allegations of “physical force,” nearly 2,000 of “frisk” and more than 600 of “gun pointed,” ProPublica points out.

The other side: “This is not a challenge to the public right to know. This is not about transparency. We are defending privacy, integrity and the unsullied reputations of thousands of hard-working public safety employees,” said union spokesman Hank Sheinkopf.

Go deeper: Explore the database

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