Remapping Debate sues NYPD for withholding vital public records
April 23, 2013 — Remapping Debate, a not-for-profit public policy news website, filed suit today in State Supreme Court in Manhattan, seeking to force the New York City Police Department to live up to its obligations under the Freedom of Information Law (FOIL).
11 months ago, Remapping Debate sought records concerning how the Police Department has handled applications for “parade” permits (the type of permit needed to engage in a protest demonstration) and applications for sound-device permits (the type of permit needed to use sound amplification equipment).
The full text of the petition filed in the case is here.
The memorandum of law filed in association with the petition is here.
“So we asked for records from two fiscal years in the Vietnam War era; one fiscal year during the administration of former Mayor David Dinkins; the fiscal year in the Bloomberg era that encompassed the 2004 Republican National Convention; and the period beginning July 1, 2011,” he explained.
Celli said: “For nearly 11 months, the NYPD’s central command has claimed that it has to obtain traditional police records — parade and sound-amplification permits — from some ‘other unit.’ As we all know, this Department — applauded for its efficiency in fighting crime — has the capacity and the personnel to respond to these requests in a timely way. What it lacks, apparently, is the will. Fortunately, when bureaucracies flout the law and ignore the legitimate requests of the citizenry, courts are there to hold them to account.”
The memorandum of law filed in the case notes that New York’s highest court has written that the FOIL was enacted “to encourage public awareness and understanding of and participation in government and to discourage official secrecy.”
It goes on to cite other appellate court cases supporting Remapping Debate’s right to the records sought, including one that highlights the fact that FOIL was recently amended to “create a clear deterrent to unreasonable delays and denials of access [and thereby] encourage every unit of government to make a good faith effort to comply with the requirements” of the statute.
Christopher Dunn, the associate director of the New York Civil Liberties Union put Remapping Debate’s request in context: “The documents sought are important to facilitating public understanding of how New York City has treated those seeking to exercise their First Amendment rights. Unfortunately, Remapping Debate’s experience of having received no documents more than 10 months after the requests were made is all too typical of how the NYPD violates its Freedom of Information Law obligations.”
Remapping Debate is the online publication that asks the “why” and “why not” questions about domestic public policy. Its mission is to help more people recognize that “public policy making involves choice, not submission to inevitable facts of life that always have been and always need to be.”