New York police certification 2022-23-08

Emilie Munson filed this request with the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services of New York.

It is a clone of this request.

Status
Processing

Communications

From: Emilie Munson

To Whom It May Concern:

This is a public records request made via MuckRock under the Freedom of Information Law, seeking records related to law enforcement officer certification in this state.

This request is brought by Big Local News along with a collaboration of news organizations, including ABC News, KQED, MuckRock and other news organizations. Big Local News is a program of Stanford University’s Journalism and Democracy Initiative and helps journalists collect, process and analyze public data.

We are seeking two categories of certification records:

* All certified officers
All law enforcement officers who are actively certified as of the date of this request (or when the request is processed). If your system maintains historical records of previously certified officers who are no longer active, please include them as far back as possible. If correctional officers are certified by your agency, please include them as well.

* Decertified officers
All law enforcement officers who have been decertified through revocations, voluntary surrenders, suspensions or any other actions going back as far as possible. Please include records for decertified correctional officers if available.

Data elements for certified officers:
* Officer unique ID number
* POST or state certification ID number
* Officer’s full name
* Officer’s date of birth or, if not releasable, year of birth or current age
* Officer’s city and/or zip code of residence
* Officer’s last/current department or agency
* Officer’s last/current department or agency start date
* Officer’s last/current position and/or rank at that department or agency
* Officer’s previous departments/agencies (employment history), with start and end dates
* Officer’s positions and/or ranks at previous departments or agencies
* Officer’s original date of certification
* Current status of certification (active, lapsed, expired, suspended, etc.)
* Last action taken on certification
* Date of last action on certification
* Disciplinary actions taken against this officer’s certification
* Dates of disciplinary actions taken against this officer’s certification
* Training history/additional certifications of this officer, if available

Data elements for decertified officers:
* Officer unique ID number
* POST ID number
* Officer’s full name
* Officer’s date of birth or, if not releasable, year of birth or current age
* Officer’s city and/or zip code of residence.
* Officer’s last department/agency, with start and end date
* Officer’s last position and/or rank at that department or agency
* Decertification action taken (revocation, suspension, voluntary surrender, etc.)
* Date decertification action taken
* POST case number, if applicable
* Reason for decertification or similar action

If your certification system contains data elements not listed above, please include them in the response, provided they are releasable under the law. On the other hand, we recognize some of the information we are asking for may not be tracked by your system. If that is the case, we are willing to accept as many of the data elements as your agency maintains. If some records are more readily available, we are happy to receive partial information as soon as possible while the remaining request is processed.

In addition to the data elements listed, we request documentation necessary to understand and interpret the data, including but not limited to record layouts, data dictionaries, code sheets, lookup tables, etc.

Our preference is to receive structured data provided in a machine-readable text file, such as delimited or fixed-width formats. We can also handle a variety of other data formats including SQL databases, Excel workbooks and MS Access. If there are additional formats your agency would prefer to provide, please let us know.

We are seeking this information as a news media organization on a matter of public interest concerning the conduct of government. As such, we ask for a waiver of all fees, if allowed under state law. If fees are necessary to reimburse the agency for actual costs, we agree to pay up to $100. If costs exceed that amount, please let us know before fulfilling the request.

Please send clarifications and questions via electronic communication at any time. Thank you very much for your time and attention to this request.

Emilie Munson
Albany Times Union

From: New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services

Dear Emily Munson:

This will acknowledge receipt of your request for records under the Freedom of Information Law received by the Division of Criminal Justice Services on August 23, 2022. The request was for “We are seeking two categories of certification records:

* All certified officers

All law enforcement officers who are actively certified as of the date of this request (or when the request is processed). If your system maintains historical records of previously certified officers who are no longer active, please include them as far back as possible. If correctional officers are certified by your agency, please include them as well.

* Decertified officers

All law enforcement officers who have been decertified through revocations, voluntary surrenders, suspensions or any other actions going back as far as possible. Please include records for decertified correctional officers if available.

Data elements for certified officers:

* Officer unique ID number

* POST or state certification ID number

* Officer’s full name

* Officer’s date of birth or, if not releasable, year of birth or current age

* Officer’s city and/or zip code of residence

* Officer’s last/current department or agency

* Officer’s last/current department or agency start date

* Officer’s last/current position and/or rank at that department or agency

* Officer’s previous departments/agencies (employment history), with start and end dates

* Officer’s positions and/or ranks at previous departments or agencies

* Officer’s original date of certification

* Current status of certification (active, lapsed, expired, suspended, etc.)

* Last action taken on certification

* Date of last action on certification

* Disciplinary actions taken against this officer’s certification

* Dates of disciplinary actions taken against this officer’s certification

* Training history/additional certifications of this officer, if available

Data elements for decertified officers:

* Officer unique ID number

* POST ID number

* Officer’s full name

* Officer’s date of birth or, if not releasable, year of birth or current age

* Officer’s city and/or zip code of residence.

* Officer’s last department/agency, with start and end date

* Officer’s last position and/or rank at that department or agency

* Decertification action taken (revocation, suspension, voluntary surrender, etc.)

* Date decertification action taken

* POST case number, if applicable

* Reason for decertification or similar action

If your certification system contains data elements not listed above, please include them in the response, provided they are releasable under the law. On the other hand, we recognize some of the information we are asking for may not be tracked by your system. If that is the case, we are willing to accept as many of the data elements as your agency maintains. If some records are more readily available, we are happy to receive partial information as soon as possible while the remaining request is processed.”.

Your request has been forwarded to the appropriate program area(s) to identify documents that are responsive to your request and which may be made available pursuant to all applicable provisions of the Freedom of Information Law.

A determination as to whether your request is granted or denied will be reached in approximately 20 business days or we will notify you in writing if the responsible program area(s) should require additional time to locate, assemble and review documents that may be responsive to your request.

Please note that, pursuant to Article 6 of the Public Officers Law, a charge may be applied to your request, including the actual cost of the medium used to respond to your Freedom of Information Law request and/or other related costs. When responsive records have been identified, you will be informed of any cost and how payment should be made.

Very truly yours,

Brian Garvey, Esq.
Records Access Officer

From: New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services

Dear Emilie Munson:

This is in response to your Freedom of Information Law (“FOIL”) request to the Division of Criminal Justice Services (“Division”) requesting “seeking two categories of certification records:
* All certified officers
All law enforcement officers who are actively certified as of the date of this request (or when the request is processed). If your system maintains historical records of previously certified officers who are no longer active, please include them as far back as possible. If correctional officers are certified by your agency, please include them as well.
* Decertified officers
All law enforcement officers who have been decertified through revocations, voluntary surrenders, suspensions or any other actions going back as far as possible. Please include records for decertified correctional officers if available.

Please be advised that the portion of your request for a list of all certified law enforcement officers is exempt from disclosure pursuant to Public Officers Law §87(2)(f) because the release “could endanger the life or safety of any person.” Accordingly, the Division does not have any records that are responsive to that portion of your request. Regarding the portion of your request for decertified officers, the records that respond to your request may be found on the Division website at https://www.criminaljustice.ny.gov/Officer_Decertification.htm

Pursuant to Public Officers Law §89(4)(a), you may appeal this determination within thirty days to the Counsel, Division of Criminal Justice Services, 80 South Swan St., Albany, NY 12210 or by email at foil@dcjs.ny.gov<mailto:foil@dcjs.ny.gov>.

Very truly yours,

Brian Garvey, Esq.
Records Access Officer

From: Emilie Munson

9/28/22
To: New York Division of Criminal Justice
Re: New York Freedom of Information Law Request: New York Police Certification 2022-08-23

To Whom It May Concern:

I am appealing the Division of Criminal Justice’s partial denial of my Freedom of Information Law request dated 2022-08-23.

On Sept. 1, the Division denied my request for a list of all certified law enforcement officers in the state “because the release ‘could endanger the life or safety of any person,’” citing Public Officers Law §87(2)(f).

I argue that the Division’s partial denial of my FOIL request, blocking access to data on actively certified police officers, is excessively broad and unreasonable.

First, it is well-established that the names of public employees, including information, constitute public information under FOIL. While the Division has made the blanket assertion that releasing these names could endanger individuals’ lives or safety, the Division has provided zero evidence to back up that claim.

According to the New York Committee on Open Government’s Christen L. Smith, “Generally, the names of public employees, including law enforcement officers, are available. However, depending on the specific facts and circumstances, disclosing identifying information about certain police officers might endanger his or her life or safety and be appropriately withheld. Whether those circumstances exist is a fact specific analysis and not one, in my opinion, that should be applied as a blanket exception to disclosure.”

Advisory opinions from the New York Committee on Open Government have consistently found that law enforcement agencies should disclose the names of employees when they are requested under FOIL.

In 1997, the Committee advised that Suffolk County should release the names of all full-time and part-time employees of the County Police Department assigned to the Office of the District Attorney under FOIL. The Committee’s Executive Director Robert Freeman wrote in advisory opinion 10099 “In my view, disclosure of the identities and assignments of municipal employees, including law enforcement officers, would not in most instances endanger their lives or safety. Even in the case of assignments to the Office of the District Attorney, it is unlikely that disclosure of the name of every officer so assigned would pose a threat to his or her safety. In my opinion, §87(2)(f) would not apply with respect to disclosure of the identities of those who are not in face to face contact or "constant interaction" with the "criminal element." Further, even with respect to those who may work undercover with the criminal element, I would conjecture that they do not use their real names, display any identification that would indicate that they are law enforcement officers, or work regular business hours in carrying out their duties. If that is so, I do not believe that the County would have any justifiable basis for withholding names of the employees in question.”

Freeman went on to add that it was unreasonable for the county to assert that the “possibility” of a threat to officer safety could justify withholding all officers’ names from disclosure: “Such an assertion is simply too broad. Aside from the undercover situation, police officers and other law enforcement officers typically identify themselves, wear nameplates, or display badge or shield numbers in the performance of their duties. In those cases, I believe that the kind of information that you are seeking must be disclosed. Again, even in the situation in which officers carry out undercover duties, it seems unlikely that they would do so in a manner in which disclosure of their real names would jeopardize their safety.”

Advisory opinion 10099 can be found at https://docsopengovernment.dos.ny.gov/coog/ftext/f10099.htm

Moreover, New York Committee on Open Government Assistant Director David Treacy reiterated this view in a 2004 advisory opinion, 14468, that stated that the complete 2002 payroll of the New York City Police Department was subject to disclosure under FOIL. Advisory opinion 14468 can be found at https://docs.dos.ny.gov/coog/ftext/f14468.htm

There is a multitude of other evidence that disclosing the names of active police officers does not automatically endanger the life or safety of the officer or others.

For example, in 2020, New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo repealed a section of the New York Civil Rights Law Section 50-a, codifying into state law that law enforcement agencies should release police disciplinary records when they are requested. If police disciplinary records can reasonably be disclosed, so too can officers’ names.

Also, the New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli regularly discloses compensation and retirement data for all New York state employees, including state police officers. If the comptroller can disclose this information under FOIL, so too can the Division of Criminal Justice.

NYC Open Data, a free public data repository published by New York City Agencies and other partners, discloses the names, titles, work locations, salaries and other information about New York City Police Department officers. If New York City public agencies can publish this information online, the Division of Criminal Justice can also release it publicly.

Indeed, numerous states have released their police standards and training databases or similar data without jeopardizing officer safety. The following 24 states have either provided law enforcement certification data, or offered to provide it, to news organizations.

● Alaska
● Arizona
● California
● Florida
● Georgia
● Idaho
● Illinois
● Iowa
● Kansas
● Louisiana
● Maine
● Maryland
● Minnesota
● Missouri
● Nevada
● New Jersey
● North Dakota
● Ohio
● Oregon
● South Carolina

For these reasons, I believe the Division’s partial denial of the records I requested is unfounded and unsupported by the language and history of the New York Freedom of Information Law. I request that you promptly reverse this decision and provide the records requested.

As required by the Freedom of Information Law, the head or governing body of an agency, or whomever is designated to determine appeals, is required to respond within 10 business days of the receipt of an appeal. If the records are denied on appeal, please explain the reasons for the denial fully in writing as required by law.

In addition, please be advised that the Freedom of Information Law directs that all appeals and the determinations that follow be sent to the Committee on Open Government, Department of State, 41 State Street, Albany, New York 12231.

Thank you for your commitment to open government and the public’s right to know.

Sincerely,
Emilie Munson
Data Reporter
Albany Times Union
645 Albany Shaker Road
Albany NY 12211
Emilie.munson@timesunion.com
617-960-6197

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