Initial victory against NYPD in Freedom of Information suit

Original Reporting | By Craig Gurian |

August 6, 2013 — Just three months after filing suit against the New York City Police Department for its failure to provide records as required by New York’s Freedom of Information Law, a settlement providing Remapping Debate with access to records has been reached with the Police Department and formalized in a court order recently filed. But at least one portion of the fight will need to continue, with the Police Department asserting that is has absolutely no records from either of the two years of the Vietnam War era requested (July 1967 through June 1969), or from the one year of the mayoral administration of David Dinkins requested (July 1991 through June 1992).

read the order 
of settlement

The full text of the order of settlement is here.

Other court documents:

The full text of the petition filed in the case is here.

The memorandum of law filed in association with the petition is here.

The exhibits are here.

The records concern 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). Remapping Debate’s specific interest was whether and how the handling of those applications had changed over time.

Remapping Debate had in the spring of 2012 requested 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. After being stonewalled by the Police Department for more than 10 months, Remapping Debate filed suit.

The order of settlement provides that the Police Department shall turn over responsive parade permit records promptly and responsive sound permit records within six months; bear the cost of document copying (normally passed along to the party requesting records); and pay Remapping Debate’s reasonable attorney’s fees.

The Police Department has already turned over the slightly more than 2,000 pages of records it says are responsive to the request concerning parade permits, and Remapping Debate is reviewing those documents.

Apparent failure of compliance

It is immediately clear, however, that the documents provided are not fully responsive to the requests as required by the order. The requests included not only the requests for parade permits themselves, they also included all records concerning the parade permits (including reasons for acting on an application and records making inquiry or providing directions about an application), and all records concerning the applicable standards by which Police Department staff were to handle parade applications.  

Not a single email was included in the documents produced to date, nor a single page of rules or instructions relating to Police Department procedure for handling these permits.

The apparently incomplete disclosure will have to be resolved between the parties or brought to the court.

A more fundamental problem

The settlement contains the Police Department’s assertion that it conducted a “diligent” search for responsive records. Despite this, the Police Department says that it hasn’t been able to locate any records for 1967 to 1969 or for 1991 to 1992.

Know where those records are?

We are seeking information on the scope, content, and possible location or locations of these records. We can be contacted here.

It is Remapping Debate’s belief that records from these years do exist and that a diligent search for them was not conducted.

As such, the order of settlement preserves Remapping Debate’s ability first to make an administrative appeal in connection with those records by September 30, and then, if not satisifed with the outcome of that appeal, to commence a new court proceeding.

Remapping Debate’s lead counsel on the case has been Andrew G. Celli, Jr. of the law firm Emery Celli Brinckerhoff & Abady LLP. 


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