Five examples of the NYPD’s commitment to “transparency”

Claim that agency is “the most transparent municipal police department in the world” doesn’t hold water, to put it politely

Written by JPat Brown
Edited by Beryl Lipton

Earlier today journalist Matthew Chayes reported that NYPD Deputy Commissioner John Miller called the department “the most transparent municipal police department in the world” in testimony before New York City Council.

In light of this rather bold claim regarding an agency routinely ranked among the worst in the state regarding openness and access, we thought we’d dig up some examples of the NYPD’s rather unique take on transparency over the years.

1. NYPD tries to charge $1.25 for illegible documents

Because hey, nowhere in the law is there anything about being able to read the records, right? Wait, are you sure? Can you check?

2. NYPD loses a memo about giving out memos

The Deputy Commissioner for Public Information somehow manages to disseminate a policy order to all 77 precincts without any shred of a paper trail. Maybe they just have one hell of a PA system.

3. NYPD enters into a three-year legal battle with Shawn Musgrave over its use of drones

The department goes to court to defend its right to claim it doesn’t have any records on drones while hosting press conferences about the crime-stopping potential of drones. Worse part is, they won.

4. NYPD claims it doesn’t have a guide to processing FOIL requests, then claims the guide is exempt, then tries to charge $500 for it, then quietly releases the information once it’s pointed out that these top-secret records are also available via a $5 app.

Yeah, this one’s a doozy, so you’ll just have to read it yourself. It’s got pretty darn near a happy ending, though.

5. NYPD improperly withholds shooting reports it had already been ordered to release on appeal, loses a second appeal, and then holds records hostage with $42,000 reproduction fee

This one, however, does not. Crime may not pay, but apparently keeping the public from having access to public information is quite the racket.

Bonus: NYPD only accepts FOIL requests via snail mail.

A sizable chunk of MuckRock’s budget is stamps for requests sent to the NYPD, so until the agency gets on board with the marvels of email, they have no right to call themselves the most transparent police department in New York, much less the world.


Image by Rhododendrites via Wikimedia Commons