NEW YORK – The New York Civil Liberties Union, with pro bono counsel from Kirkland & Ellis LLP, filed a lawsuit against the Suffolk Police Department unlawfully denying the NYCLU’s requests for records related to police misconduct.
The NYCLU submitted a FOIL request seeking public records specifically authorized to be disclosed under state FOIL after the repeal of Civil Rights Law § 50-a, a statute that had been used for decades to bar the disclosure of police misconduct. The Suffolk Police Department has withheld all documents regarding complaints that did not result in discipline and over redacted others, and it denied the NYCLU’s administrative appeal filed in November 2021.
“The public has a right to complete information about the police misconduct that takes place in their communities, said Bobby Hodgson, supervising attorney at the NYCLU. “The Suffolk Police Department cannot withhold disciplinary records to which the public is legally entitled after the repeal of 50-a: We should know when and why the Suffolk Police Department refused to impose discipline. Police transparency is now codified into law, and police departments can no longer argue that they must be trusted to police themselves, immune from public scrutiny.”
“New Yorkers stood up, spoke out, and demanded change: the Suffolk County Police Department cannot deny the fact that 50-a was repealed, and police transparency is essential to police accountability,” said Irma Solis, Suffolk County regional director at the NYCLU. “We will continue to take action to ensure 50-a is repealed not just in theory but also in practice across New York State by obtaining full documentation of misconduct long withheld from the public.”
“We are proud to partner with the NYCLU to ensure that our local police departments are accountable to their communities,” said Michelle Six, partner at Kirkland & Ellis LLP. “New Yorkers were promised this accountability and transparency through the repeal of Section 50-a and we look forward to continuing to advocate for the public’s right to access these files.”
The proceeding is part of a statewide police transparency campaign in which the NYCLU and pro bono counsel filed state FOIL requests with twelve police departments statewide and the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision. As part of this campaign, the NYCLU has filed lawsuits against the New York State Police, as well as police departments in Rochester, Syracuse, Freeport, Troy, Buffalo, Nassau County, for withholding public records. Courts statewide have rejected the vast majority of efforts to thwart accountability and disclosure following the repeal of 50-a, including in Schenectady following the NYCLU’s intervention.
You can find case materials here: https://www.nyclu.org/en/cases/nyclu-v-suffolk-police-department