Police department misconduct allegations and disciplinary proceedings

Beryl Lipton filed this request with the Vestal Town Police Department of Vestal, NY.

It is a clone of this request.

Est. Completion July 5, 2021
Status
Payment Required

Communications

From: Beryl Lipton

To Whom It May Concern:

Pursuant to the New York Freedom of Information Law, I hereby request the following records:

All materials and records describing and sufficient to show/disclose all allegations of misconduct made and all disciplinary proceedings taken against any officer, employee, or representative of this policing agency.

As described in the New York Freedom of Information Law, a record is "any information kept, held, filed, produced or reproduced by, with or for an agency or the state legislature, in any physical form whatsoever including, but not limited to, reports, statements, examinations, memoranda, opinions, folders, files, books, manuals, pamphlets, forms, papers, designs, drawings, maps, photos, letters, microfilms, computer tapes or discs, rules, regulations or codes." Records kept in a digital or electronic form are also records, would be responsive to this request, and should be provided.

These records are typically required to be retained under the New York State Records Retention and Disposition Schedule MU-1 (http://www.archives.nysed.gov/records/retention_mu-1), including, but not limited to, item no. 365, which includes: "Investigative records and disciplinary proceedings, including but not limited to statement of charge, transcript of hearing, notice of decision, letter of termination or resignation, letter of reinstatement, record of appeal procedure, and correspondence." While materials under that schedule have a set retention of 3 years after the final decision rendered, this request and materials responsive to it include *all* records held in the possession of any office or individual employed or formerly employed by this policing agency, including those kept off-site, in digital form, and in personnel files.

Please note that any failure to provide all potentially-responsive materials and/or the destruction of materials potentially responsive to this request would be a violation of the spirit of the New York Freedom of Information Law, as well as unlawful under the New York FOIL and the terms of the attached litigation hold notice.

Materials responsive to this request include — but are not limited to — all complaints, reports, records of discipline and penalties, aggregate collections of complaint and disciplinary materials (spreadsheets, databases), investigatory materials, relevant related correspondence, photographs, video, other related evidence, proof of discipline or fulfillment of penalties, and all personnel materials (including those used in promotion, contract, and other employment negotiations and considerations) that reference or utilize misconduct allegations or disciplinary materials of any sort.

Materials responsive to this request include all complaints— internal, external, and civilian — and include records disclosing the names, badge numbers, and personnel identification of each officer involved and/or serving as a witness, as well as all available details of the incident/complaint: date, time, location, nature of the incident, description of the incident, nature of the investigation, investigatory materials, the disposition of the case, and any subsequent materials related to the execution of any resultant discipline. Responsive materials include all complaints and allegations against any officer, employee, or representative of this policing agency, regardless of whether that complaint or allegation resulted in any investigation or disciplinary action.

Responsive materials also include all records of use of force by officers, including records disclosing the names, badge numbers, and personnel identification of each officer involved and/or serving as a witness, as well as all available details of the incident: date, time, location, nature of the incident, description of the incident, nature of the use of force, subsequent investigatory materials related to the use of force, the disposition of any investigation into the incident, and any subsequent materials related to the use of force.

Please provide materials on a rolling basis, beginning with materials created during the following timeframes:
• January 1, 2010 - June 15, 2020
• January 1, 2000 - January 1, 2010
• January 1, 1990 - January 1, 2000
• January 1, 1980 - January 1, 1990
• January 1, 1970 - January 1, 1980

Pursuant to NYCRR Section 1401.5(c)(1), should any of this request be unclear or lack sufficient description for your office, please provide direction that would enable this requester to request records reasonably described. Please also note that the New York FOIL states: "An agency shall not deny a request on the basis that the request is voluminous or that locating or reviewing the requested records or providing the requested copies is burdensome because the agency lacks sufficient staffing or on any other basis if the agency may engage an outside professional service to provide copying, programming or other services required to provide the copy...." Please also see FOIL AO 19671, an Advisory Opinion from the Committee on Open Government [https://docs.dos.ny.gov/coog/ftext/f19671.htm].

If your office has questions about this request or would like to discuss it for any reason, please contact this requester via the contact email address provided and feel free to follow up by phone: 617-299-1832. This request is being submitted to each policing agency in New York as part of a collaborative project led by MuckRock and involving multiple other educational and journalistic partners and participants. For this reason, over the lifetime of this request, your agency may interface with individuals not listed on this initial communication.

This request is being made in the public interest by a news organization as part of non-profit (not commercial) journalistic work and research on behalf of the public. In the event that there are fees, I would be grateful if you would inform me of the total charges in advance of fulfilling my request and as part of the necessary negotiations for successful processing. As far as it is possible, please fulfill elements of this request 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.

Sincerely,

Beryl Lipton

From: Vestal Town Police Department

An interim response, stating the request is being processed.

From: Vestal Town Police Department

To Whom It May Concern,

I do need clarification regarding your FOIL request dated June 19th, 2020. In two separate paragraphs you indicated materials responsive to your request are all complaints and reports internal, external and civilian. What type of complaints are you specifically requesting? Are you asking for disciplinary information only or other types of complaints? You also refer to the personal identification of officers. What personal identification are you referring to outside of the officer’s name and badge number?

John Butler
Chief of Police
Vestal Police Dept.
605 Vestal Parkway West
Vestal New York 13850
607-321-6001
cell 607-349-0349

From: Beryl Lipton

Hello Chief Butler —

I apologize for having missed your message. Please find below an updated version of my previously-submitted Freedom of Information Law request. This version provides additional specificity about the requested information. Thank you so much for your time and help. Let me know if you'd like to discuss this request.

Best wishes,
Beryl
207-500-7123

_____________
To Whom It May Concern:

Pursuant to the New York Freedom of Information Law, I hereby request the following records:

All materials and records describing and sufficient to show/disclose all law enforcement disciplinary records, including materials on allegations of misconduct made and all disciplinary proceedings taken against any law enforcement officer currently or formerly in the employ of this policing agency.

For a more specific definition of the term “law enforcement disciplinary record,” please see Section 86 of the New York Public Officers Law. For a more specific definition of the term “law enforcement officer,” please refer to the definitions of peace officer found in subdivisions twenty-three and twenty-three-a of section 2.10 of the criminal procedure law and subdivision twenty-four of section 2.10 of the criminal procedure law, as well as the definition of police officer found in section 1.20 of the criminal procedure law.

As described in the New York Freedom of Information Law, a record is:
"any information kept, held, filed, produced or reproduced by, with or for an agency or the state legislature, in any physical form whatsoever including, but not limited to, reports, statements, examinations, memoranda, opinions, folders, files, books, manuals, pamphlets, forms, papers, designs, drawings, maps, photos, letters, microfilms, computer tapes or discs, rules, regulations or codes."
Records kept in a digital or electronic form are also records, would be responsive to this request, and should be provided.

The request records are typically required to be retained, in part, under the New York State Records Retention and Disposition Schedule MU-1 (http://www.archives.nysed.gov/records/retention_mu-1), including, but not limited to, item no. 365, which includes:
"Investigative records and disciplinary proceedings, including but not limited to statement of charge, transcript of hearing, notice of decision, letter of termination or resignation, letter of reinstatement, record of appeal procedure, and correspondence."
While materials under that schedule have a set retention of 3 years after the final decision rendered, this request and materials responsive to it include *all* records held in the possession of any office or individual employed or formerly employed by this policing agency, including those kept off-site, in digital form, and in personnel files.

Please note that any failure to provide all potentially-responsive materials and/or the destruction of materials potentially responsive to this request would be a violation of the spirit of the New York Freedom of Information Law, as well as unlawful under the New York FOIL and the terms of the previously-submitted litigation hold notice.

Materials responsive to this request include — but are not limited to — all complaints, reports, records of discipline and penalties, aggregate collections of complaint and disciplinary materials (spreadsheets, databases), investigatory materials, relevant related correspondence, photographs, video, other related evidence, proof of discipline or fulfillment of penalties, and all personnel materials (including those used in promotion, contract, and other employment negotiations and considerations) that reference or utilize misconduct allegations or disciplinary materials of any sort.

Materials responsive to this request include all complaints— internal, external, and civilian — and include records disclosing the names, badge numbers, and personnel identification of each officer involved and/or serving as a witness, as well as all available details of the incident/complaint: date, time, location, nature of the incident, description of the incident, nature of the investigation, investigatory materials, the disposition of the case, and any subsequent materials related to the execution of any resultant discipline. Responsive materials include all complaints and allegations against any officer, employee, or representative of this policing agency, regardless of whether that complaint or allegation resulted in any investigation or disciplinary action.

Responsive materials also include all records of use of force by officers, including records disclosing the names, badge numbers, and personnel identification of each officer involved and/or serving as a witness, as well as all available details of the incident: date, time, location, nature of the incident, description of the incident, nature of the use of force, subsequent investigatory materials related to the use of force, the disposition of any investigation into the incident, and any subsequent materials related to the use of force.

Please provide materials on a rolling basis, beginning with materials created during the following timeframes:
• January 1, 2010 - November 30, 2020
• January 1, 2000 - January 1, 2010
• January 1, 1990 - January 1, 2000
• January 1, 1980 - January 1, 1990
• January 1, 1970 - January 1, 1980

Pursuant to NYCRR Section 1401.5(c)(1), should any of this request be unclear or lack sufficient description for your office, please provide direction that would enable this requester to request records reasonably described. Please also note that the New York FOIL states:
"An agency shall not deny a request on the basis that the request is voluminous or that locating or reviewing the requested records or providing the requested copies is burdensome because the agency lacks sufficient staffing or on any other basis if the agency may engage an outside professional service to provide copying, programming or other services required to provide the copy...."
Please also see FOIL AO 19671, an Advisory Opinion from the Committee on Open Government [https://docs.dos.ny.gov/coog/ftext/f19671.htm].

If your office has questions about this request or would like to discuss it for any reason, please contact this requester via the contact email address provided and feel free to follow up by phone: 617-299-1832.

This request is being submitted to each policing agency in New York as part of a collaborative project led by MuckRock and involving multiple other educational and journalistic partners and participants. For this reason, over the lifetime of this request, your agency may interface with individuals not listed on this initial communication.

This request is being made in the public interest by a news organization as part of non-profit (not commercial) journalistic work and research on behalf of the public. In the event that there are fees, I would be grateful if you would inform me of the total charges in advance of fulfilling my request and as part of the necessary negotiations for successful processing.

As far as it is possible, please fulfill elements of this request 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.

Sincerely,

Beryl Lipton

From: Beryl Lipton

Hello Chief Butler —

I mistyped the phone number below. This is the proper phone number to use: 617-500-7123.

Thank you,
Beryl

From: Vestal Town Police Department

Good Morning,

I am in receipt of your email dated November 30th, 2020. The same question that was in my July 20th, email regarding further clarification remains. I asked what you meant by “personnel” identification of officers other than their name and badge numbers. This language can be located in the paragraph immediately before the paragraph explaining the “rolling basis” in your request. I also want to know if you are asking for substantiated as well as unsubstantiated accusations vs officers. Thank you.

John Butler
Chief of Police
Vestal Police Dept.
605 Vestal Parkway West
Vestal New York 13850
607-321-6001
cell 607-349-0349
jbutler@vestalny.com

From: Beryl Lipton

Hello Chief Butler,

I apologize for the delay. I'd be glad to limit the requested "personnel information" to names and badge numbers, though I ask that if other information is available (for example, commendation or courses taken), please do not redact it. I am interested in unsubstantiated and substantiated complaints.

Please let me know if there is anything else I can do to help.

Best wishes,
Beryl

From: Vestal Town Police Department

To Who it may concern,

This email is in response to your firm's July 5th, 2021 request regarding the Vestal Police Department's disciplinary records. As you are aware, a NYS Supreme Court judge in Monroe County has ordered a temporary stop to the release of police officer disciplinary records pursuant to a FOIL request. The court held that the statute replacing Civil Rights Law 50-a with provisions requiring release of most police disciplinary records was not retroactive, essentially making such records that existed prior to June 12, 2020 not subject to the new disclosure rules. Therefore based on this NYS Supreme Court decision, we are forwarding only departmental disciplinary records after the June 12th, 2020 date. (See attached)

The Vestal Police Department will release disciplinary records prior to the June 12th, 2020 date based on future NYS court rulings when they become available. This department has researched all disciplinary records in regards to your initial request. This research was assigned to the Police Captain who is the only individual who has the skill required to prepare your requested records. The Captain spent a total of 34 hours completing this research. Therefore if and when a future direction is provided by the NYS courts and/or by the NYS Legislature, your firm would be billed a total of $1,845.18 prior to the remaining records being released.

John Butler
Chief of Police
Vestal Police Dept.
605 Vestal Parkway West
Vestal New York 13850
607-321-6001
cell 607-349-0349
jbutler@vestalny.com

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