Not everything about 2020 has been bad. The pandemic has been disastrous for the year’s reputation, but good things are happening right now as well. The worldwide explosion of the Black Lives Matter movement has brought to the mainstream a much-needed conversation about systemic racism in policing (and in general), and the airing out of toxic practices in policing has become a welcome trend to many.
The New York Civil Liberties Union just released a massive database to the public that reveals hundreds of thousands of misconduct allegations against NYPD officers, and it was published just moments after a federal appeals court denied a police union’s attempt to block the records from being exposed.
The New York Times reports that a grand total of 323,911 complaints involving around 81,550 New York City police officers were included in the data dump published online Thursday.
From the Times:
The records released Thursday include all allegations of excessive force, abuse of authority, discourtesy and offensive language investigated by the review board though mid-July, as well as the board’s findings and any discipline that the police commissioner imposed. They do not include complaints under investigation by the review board or those investigated by the Police Department itself.
The complaints were shrouded in secrecy until June, when, as protests against police brutality spread across the country, the State Legislature in New York repealed a 44-year-old law that had been used to prevent their release to the public.
After a legal challenge from labor unions representing police officers, firefighters and corrections officers whose records were shielded by the law, a federal appeals court on Thursday ruled that the data could be released while the case continued in a lower court.
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“History has shown the NYPD is unwilling to police itself,” NYCLU legal director Christopher Dunn said in a statement. “The release of this database is an important step towards greater transparency and accountability and is just the beginning of unraveling the monopoly the N.Y.P.D. holds on public information and officer discipline.”
According to the New York Post, Hank Sheinkopf, a spokesman for the coalition of unions that tried their hardest to keep the sealed records under wraps, said opponents of the law’s repeal are still committed to fighting efforts to expose allegations against police officers.
“[W]e continue to fight the De Blasio administration and the improper dumping of thousands of documents containing unproven, career-damaging, unsubstantiated allegations that put our members and their families at risk,” Sheinkopf said, the Post reports.
Wait a minute…
What happened to all that, “if you’ve done nothing wrong, you don’t have anything to worry about” energy Black people are subjected to when we complain about racial profiling and police harassment? Would Sheinkopf or the people he speaks for have the same attitude towards a proposition that citizens’ arrests be immediately sealed if they aren’t convicted of the crime they were charged with?
The truth is police officers enjoy the luxury of having their reports taken as gospel or at least given more weight than the accounts of the civilian suspects they interact with. That’s especially evident given the fact that, according to the NYCLU report, less than 3 percent of the 323,911 complaints resulted in a penalty for officers, and only 12 of those officers were fired behind said complaints.
It’s almost as if it’s an uphill battle to get the “bad apples” among police officers held accountable for their misconduct, and the exposing of the sheer number of complaints is the least that can be done in the bid for more police transparency.
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