NEW YORK (WCBS 880/AP) – The New York Police Department must hand over more than a decade’s worth of internal reports on shootings that include details from witnesses and the officers’ first-hand accounts, according to a ruling made public Tuesday.
WCBS 880’s Irene Cornell has the story
State Supreme Justice Emily J. Goodman’s decision in a lawsuit by the New York Civil Liberties Union means reports will be made public on more than 800 instances since 1997 in which officers fired at civilians. They will include details on famous cases like the 1999 shooting of Amadou Diallo, and lesser-known ones where no one was hit.
Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said the department would comply with the ruling, but he noted the department already releases comprehensive findings in an annual firearms-discharge report. In that report, every shooting is discussed – whether it involved a human, animal or otherwise; how many shots were fired; and the race of the people involved.
Those reports have been available at least for three years. Kelly called the annual report in-depth and well done.
“I think we’ve passed that issue,” he said. “I think that litigation may have been started before we started issuing that report.”
The statistical information in the annual report is distilled from data compiled after shootings. But the information that will be made public under Goodman’s ruling includes detailed reports from each incident, 24 hours after and 90 days following, in the officer’s own hand and from direct witness statements.
“They will provide a complete picture of the facts of these shootings, and what witnesses have said about the shootings,” said Christopher Dunn, the civil liberties union lawyer who worked on the suit. “They can be a basis for evaluating department shooting practices and perhaps discipline.”
According to the ruling, the names of officers will be made public, but other details like addresses will be left off. Identifying information on witnesses will vary depending on whether publicizing information would put them at risk.
The judge threw out the NYPD’s argument that the reports would give up confidential investigative techniques and create a chilling effect on witnesses. City Law Department attorney Jesse Levine said they were reviewing the decision and considering appeal options.
The ruling is the latest in a lengthy legal battle between the police department and NYCLU over access to police data.
The NYCLU successfully sued to get the race of the suspects and the officers involved in shootings, after the 2006 Sean Bell case where the unarmed 23-year-old was killed in a hail of 50 police bullets in the early morning of his wedding day. Diallo was killed in 1999, shot at 41 times after he reached into his pocket for a wallet.
The NYPD has increasingly released selective data without a court order. For example, earlier this year it released a decade worth of arrests on misdemeanors after allegations that higher level crimes were being downgraded.
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