Brooklyn DA Releases 10,000 Police Misconduct Records To Gothamist, Exposing Cops Prosecutors Don't Want In Their Courtrooms
from the copious-cop-shop-docs-copped dept
Nearly two years ago — prior to the 2020 repeal of 50-a, the statute that codified law enforcement opacity in the state of New York — the Brooklyn DA’s office released part of its “Brady list” to Gothamist. The “Brady” (or “Giglio,” depending on who’s naming it) list tells prosecutors (and [supposedly] defense attorneys) which cops aren’t to be trusted, thanks to previous perjury/severe misconduct/evidence-planting/etc. This keeps prosecutors from calling witnesses who can be easily impeached. And it helps defense lawyers know which government witnesses are ripe for undermining.
It’s the latter reason that often keeps these lists shrouded in secrecy. While some law enforcement agencies are more than willing to share with prosecutors in order to keep convictions intact, they’re far less willing to give the defense anything to work with. But some of this information can be obtained through public records requests. And some of it can be obtained through new transparency laws or court orders.
The list handed to Gothamist in 2019 was far from complete. Now with 50-a repealed, the information is flowing more freely. The NYPD is still doing what it can to withhold its own version of its Brady list, but that’s not stopping others in possession of at least part of this list from releasing what they have on hand.
Once again, it’s both the Brooklyn DA and Gothamist combining forces to provide more information about bad cops to the public. While others have attempted to compile Brady lists from public records requests, this proactive move by the Brooklyn DA’s office far outpaces any independent collection of Brady-listed officers.
The latest publication by Gothamist contains 679 records in a searchable database compiled by Tarak Shah, a data scientist for the Human Rights Data Analysis Group. There are redactions, but they do not serve the NYPD’s interests. As Shah notes in his statement accompanying this release, the redactions only cover information that “could have put those involved with investigating this story at risk.”
More than 10,000 documents are now in the hands of Gothamist, courtesy of Brooklyn DA Eric Gonzalez. What’s in there? Plenty of cop bullshit. Here are just a few highlights:
One officer had his honesty on the witness stand questioned by two separate judges in 2011. The next year, the NYPD busted him for asking colleagues to engage in ticket fixing. A few years later, yet another judge in another criminal case discredited portions of his sworn testimony.
Another officer “misrepresented” his record of military service to his colleagues, and was later caught by department investigators for making false statements about his decision to shut down the music at a community concert. The next year, the department closed a substantiated case against him for failing to notify the NYPD that he was involved in five “domestic incidents.”
A third officer was disciplined in 2013 for speeding through red lights, using NYPD computers to make numerous searches unrelated to work, and failing to notify the department’s Internal Affairs Bureau about serious misconduct or corruption allegations against several colleagues—a responsibility that NYPD officers take on when they join the force.
The only thing comparable to the size of this database is the one created by the NYPD in response to public pressure and the repeal of 50-a. But that’s controlled by the NYPD, which is free to redact all sorts of information and make it deliberately unclear which officers have had complaints filed against them. The NYPD’s database contains information on more officers, but the sortable fields do not include the number of complaints against an officer.
Instead, the NYPD has obscured this information and has chosen to highlight “Arrests Totals” and “Department Recognitions,” which appears to indicate the department feels the end justifies the means. Only by clicking through on names can one access misconduct documents. But it’s more miss than hit, which is good news for the NYPD (not many officers with complaints!) but worse for people seeking transparency and accountability. And it does not appear to contain records for officers who’ve been fired for misconduct or excessive force, allowing the NYPD to whitewash its troubled history.
If police departments are really serious about ridding themselves of the low-value employees holding them down, they’ll be more like the Brooklyn DA and less like the NYPD. A bad cop helps no one. Outing and eliminating cops who jeopardize prosecutions will do more for public safety than all the spy tech, sentence enhancements, and “proactive” policing combined.