Drone Documents (New York City Police Department)

Shawn Musgrave filed this request with the New York City Police Department of New York City, NY.
Tracking #




From: Shawn Musgrave

To Whom It May Concern:

Pursuant to the New York State Freedom of Information Law (1977 N.Y. Laws ch. 933), I hereby request the following records:

All documents created from January 2005 to the date this request is processed related to the agency's use of aerial drones, remotely piloted vehicles (RPVs), remotely piloted aircraft (RPAs), unmanned aerials (UAs), unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), and/or unmanned aerial systems (UASs)(hereinafter “drones”).

Please search specifically for the below document categories, and respond to each of the categories and items:

1) Acquisition documents:

i) requests for proposals (RFPs), proposals/quotes submitted by vendors, contracts, leases, budget requests, project/equipment budgets, cost allocations or reimbursements for the purchase of drone equipment;

ii) Grant applications and award letters for drone equipment purchases;

iii) Insurance contracts for all drone equipment;

iv) Communications (including electronic communications) between the agency head or agency quartermaster (or individual responsible for equipment purchases and maintenance) and drone vendors, manufacturers or retailers;

v) Communications (including electronic communications) between the agency head and agency quartermaster (or individual responsible for equipment purchases and maintenance) regarding acquisition, lease or use of drone equipment;

vi) Communications (including electronic communications) between the agency head and the governor, mayor and city/town manager regarding the acquisition of drones;

vii) Applications (including all components and support documentation) for Certificates of Waiver/Authorization (COA) from the Federal Aviation Administration, as well as COA grant notifications and final agreement;

viii) Contracts for services related to drones, such as data storage, data analysis, image storage, image analysis, video storage, video analysis, operation, maintenance;

2) Equipment logs:

i) Inventories/logs/lists/databases of all drones owned, leased or operated by or for the agency;

ii) Maintenance logs for all drones owned, leased or otherwise operated by or for the agency;

3) Policy documents:

i) Policies, guidelines, protocols, manuals and/or instructions on the use/operation of drones and usage of data, images and video obtained from drone flights;

ii) Communications from the agency head, quartermaster (or individual responsible for overseeing equipment purchases and maintenance) on approved uses for drones;

iii) Memorandums of understanding (MOUs), memorandums of agreement (MOAs) or any other agreements or contracts with other government agencies, private corporations, organizations or individuals to share drone equipment, data, images or video or to operate drones on behalf of the agency;

4) Training documents:

i) Curriculum used to train drone operators and observers;

ii) Training log for all drone operators and observers;

iii) Certifications of training completion for all drone operators and observers;

iv) Contracts, purchase orders, budget requests or reimbursement orders for training sessions for all drone operators and observers;

5) Usage documents:

i) Flight logs for all drone flights, including training flights;

ii) Flight logs transmitted to the Federal Aviation Administration pursuant to Certificate of Waiver/Authorization (COA) requirements;

iii) Reprimands relating to drones, including misuse of equipment and failure to properly maintain equipment.

I also request that, if appropriate, fees be waived as I believe this request is in the public interest. The requested documents will be made available to the general public free of charge as part of the public information service at MuckRock.com, processed by a representative of the news media/press and is made in the process of news gathering and not for commercial usage.

In the event that fees cannot be waived, I would be grateful if you would inform me of the total charges in advance of fulfilling my request. I would prefer the request filled electronically, by e-mail attachment if available or CD-ROM if not.

Thank you in advance for your anticipated cooperation in this matter. I look forward to receiving your response to this request within 5 business days, as the statute requires.


Shawn Musgrave

From: New York City Police Department

The request has been rejected as being too vague, burdensome or otherwise unprocessable.

From: MuckRock.com

To Whom It May Concern:

I wanted to follow up on the following Freedom of Information request, copied below, and originally submitted on Oct. 22, 2013. Please let me know when I can expect to receive a response, or if further clarification is needed.

Thank you for your help.

From: Shawn Musgrave

Mr. David:

This is an appeal for 2013-PL-7978. Per the attached rejection letter, Lieutenant Richard Mantellino has determined that my request (attached) "does not reasonably describe a record in a manner that would enable a search to be conducted."

As I have already indicated to the Committee on Open Records, this has been a common refrain from Lt. Mantellino, even in cases where the NYPD FOIL unit ought to have a clear idea as to where to find the requested documents. Even where the requested records are identical to those over which NYPD has been successfully sued (i.e., weapons discharge reports), Lt. Mantellino has found incredibly specific requests to be insufficiently descriptive.

This is precisely one of those cases. My request outlines several specific categories of documents all related to the topic of unmanned aerial vehicles (aka, "drones") over a specified time range. Furthermore, when I submitted a similar request to NYPD in January of this year (2013-PL-0448), Lt. Mantellino vaguely invoked a personal privacy provision without substantiating how the requested documents pertain to that exemption.

Dozens of other police departments across the country have complied with this records request without any difficulty. Since UAVs are a topic of immense interest to the public, particularly where they are deployed in law enforcement, I assert once again that this request is in the public interest and respectfully request a review of Lt. Mantellino's determination.


Shawn Musgrave

From: Shawn Musgrave

This request has not yet been acknowledged. Please confirm its receipt and advise as to its status.

Thank you.

From: New York City Police Department

A letter stating that the request appeal has been rejected.

From: Shawn Musgrave

Jonathan David
Records Access Appeals Officer
New York City Police Department
One Police Plaza - Room 1406
New York, NY 10038-1497

February 18, 2014

Mr. David:

I respectfully ask that you reconsider my appeal.

First, this request is only partially duplicative of 13PL100448, rather than entirely duplicative as you indicate. There are a number of categories of documents in this request, 2013-PL-7978, that I did not address in my previous request. This being a separate and non-duplicative request, the determination for the previous request has no bearing here.

Irrelevance of the previous determination notwithstanding, my previous request was not processed appropriately, and so any duplicative components have yet to be fulfilled. As attached, Lt. Mantellino rejected my initial request for UAV documents on the dubious basis of "personal privacy." Rather than address the merits of my request in 13PL100448, you rejected my appeal because it was submitted outside the statutory appeal window. I did not repeat that error for this appeal, so it is inappropriate to import that appeal determination as justification for rejecting 2013-PL-7978.

The remainder of your appeal determination here hinges on conjecture, and again fails to address the material issues raised by my appeal. You wrote that, to the "extent that NYPD may be in possession of records responsive to your request," such documents would be exempt from disclosure. You have not addressed the fact that Lt. Mantellino failed utterly to conduct an adequate search. As I wrote in my appeal, even though my request outlined several specific categories of documents all related to the topic of unmanned aerial vehicles over a specified time range that would enable an individual familiar with NYPD to conduct a search, Lt. Mantellino indicated that the FOIL Unit was unable to conduct a search. This is ridiculous on its face, and on that basis alone this search ought to be remanded back to the FOIL Unit for processing in good faith. Your response does not address this matter whatsoever or even indicate whether you reviewed any of the actual documents that I requested.

Your hypothetical and theoretical basis for rejecting my request outright is also concerning, in that you suggest that all documents concerning "non-routine" techniques or equipment are wholesale exempt from disclosure in their entirety. NYPD has lost a number of FOIL lawsuits over the last few years on precisely this point. See, for example, the ruling in NYCLU v. NYPD, 2008. Beyond the tenuous legal footing of suggesting that releasing any documents on a novel law enforcement tactic "would enable miscreants," this strain of blanket exemptions as you invoke are at critical odds with Commissioner Bratton's recent statements that "there should be no secrets in the NYPD."

Finally, there are several categories of documents that I have requested here that would neither qualify as deliberative nor disclose "non-routine investigative techniques." In particular, acquisition documents and applications for FAA approval to operate drones would not be wholly exempt even under your restrictions, nor would equipment and training logs. Dozens of other agencies, including federal investigative agencies such as the FBI and Customs and Border Protection, have released documents pertaining to their UAS fleets along these lines.

It is inappropriate for NYPD to continue to deflect records requests rather than issue actual responses. Please remand this request for additional search in keeping with my rights under FOIL.

Shawn Musgrave

From: New York City Police Department

An interim response, stating the request is being processed.