NYPD records reveal 20k abuse allegations and 240 chokeholds, explosive leak by ProPublica opens can of worms

The database was released despite a recent restraining order by a federal judge and could add more to anti-cop grievances


                            NYPD records reveal 20k abuse allegations and 240 chokeholds, explosive leak by ProPublica opens can of worms
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The image of the police in the US received yet another blow on Sunday, July 26, when news website ProPublica published a database containing complaint information against excesses committed by thousands of officers at the New York Police Department (NYPD), Associated Press reported. The release came just days after a federal judge stayed the public release of the disciplinary records.

The revelations are set to add fuel to the protests that are taking place across the country against the cops in the wake of the brutal death of George Floyd on May 25. Demand for defunding and even dismantling police departments across America has grown stronger during the violent protests. In June, the NYPD decided to disband its plain-clothes anti-crime units as a measure of reform.

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While posting the explosive database, ProPublica explained in a note that it was not obliged to abide by Judge Katherine Polk Failla’s temporary restraining order since it is not a part of the union lawsuit that has challenged the release of those records. The database, published as The NYPD Files, showed disciplinary records of 3,996 active officers and the total number of complaints recorded in the database is over 12,000. It omitted allegations that the investigators concluded to be without a basis, i.e., incidents that did not take place as per the allegations. There were about 3,200 allegations that have been listed as unfounded. The database includes those active officers who have had at least one substantial charge against them.

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More than 7.6k allegations of force

When broken down, the database showed 7,636 allegations of excessive use of force of which 4,849 were about using physical force. Over 240 cases of chokehold were registered — one way of police brutality that came under the scanner after the death of Floyd. More than 20,000 allegations of abuse of authority were also included in the list besides 4,677 instances of discourtesy and 753 cases that included allegations of using offensive language. Of them, 307 were related to race.

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Deputy Managing Editor Eric Umansky said ProPublica sought the information from the NYPD’s watchdog agency, the Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB), soon after last month’s repeal of the state law that prevented the disclosure of disciplinary records for decades. “We understand the arguments against releasing this data. But we believe the public good it could do outweighs the potential harm,” ProPublica Editor-in-Chief Stephen Engelberg said. “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.”

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Unions representing police officers and other public safety officials sued the city authorities on July 15 to stop NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio from starting to unveil misconduct complaints on a government website. According to the unions, doing so could hurt the officers’ reputations and endanger their safety. A state judge, who first handled the case, issued a narrower restraining order that temporarily blocked the public disclosure of records that dealt with unsubstantiated allegations.

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Last week, Failla’s ruling blocked the CCRB, the NYPD and other bodies from disclosing the disciplinary records till at least August 18, the next date of hearing. She also stopped the New York chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union from unveiling the records it has already obtained. The organization, however, refused to oblige and said it would contest the order. It said it requested the misconduct complaints from the CCRB under NY’s open records law and got them before the unions’ lawsuit was filed. Like ProPublica, the NY chapter of ACLU also said that it is not party to the lawsuit, the AP report added.

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