The New York Civil Liberties Union has sued the New York Police Department for refusing to release internal audits of a Brooklyn precinct, saying the reports are essential to show whether the department has manipulated its crime statistics to make them appear more favorable.
In recent years, the NYPD has come under fire by critics who claim that it downgrades felonies in its crime reports or discourages people from filing complaints in the first place in order to improve its crime statistics. In January 2011, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly appointed three former federal prosecutors to review the department’s crime-reporting system.
According to the NYCLU’s lawsuit, which was filed Friday, Kelly also has asserted that regular internal audits performed to assess its precincts show that no significant problems in crime reporting exist.
Shortly after Kelly appointed the panel of former prosecutors, the NYCLU filed a Freedom of Information Law request, seeking copies of all audits since 2000. The request specifically sought audits of the 81st Precinct in Brooklyn, which “has been the center of a scandal involving quotas being imposed on police officers,” according to the complaint.
In July 2011, the NYPD handed over audits of all commands except those of the 81st Precinct. In denying a subsequent NYCLU request seeking the missing audits, the department asserted among other things that classification of crimes in the 81st Precinct is the subject of an ongoing investigation and that releasing the audits could compromise the investigation.
“The NYPD’s denial is insufficient on its face with respect to its effort to invoke FOIL’s law-enforcement exemption to withhold the audits of the 81st Precinct,” the NYCLU wrote in its complaint. “The mere fact that the audits are being reviewed as part of an ongoing investigation is not a basis for withholding them under FOIL’s law-enforcement exemption.”
The NYCLU also noted that the review panel has yet to release any findings. The NYPD had initially given the panel three to six months to finish its work, according to news reports at the time.
The NYPD public information office did not immediately comment Monday on the lawsuit.