Friday, February 25, 2011

NY Judge Says Cops Shooting Incident Reports Not FOIA-Exempt

New York City Police Department headquartersImage via WikipediaIn a 22-page decision released this month, New York Supreme Court Justice Emily Jane Goodman ruled that police department shooting incident reports must be produced in compliance with the state's Freedom of Information Law (Pub. Off. Law art. 6, secs. 84-90).

In  In the Matter of the New York Civil Liberties Union v. New York City Police Dept. et al. (Index No. 115928/09), Justice Goodman ordered that redacted reports of shooting incidents be produced when requested.  The NYCLU asked for shooting incident reports dating back to January 1997, focusing on events in which police discharged firearms at civilians. The legal group also sought documents from 1990 onward that broke down individuals involved in shooting incidents by race.

Police officials initially rejected the request, citing exemptions under the FOIA law involving disclosure of information that would "constitute an unwarranted invasion of privacy" or "interfere with law enforcement investigations."  But Judge Goodman's opinion concurred with the NYCLU position that the reports requested concerned factual data and were not categorically exempt. New York's statute is modeled after the federal FOIA (5 U.S.C. sec. 552 et seq.).

Another account of the case is available on the always-informative Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press Web site ( 

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