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Court Orders NYPD to Electronically Record All Citizen Encounters

7/19/18

Read a pdf of our statement here.

Court Orders NYPD to Electronically Record All Citizen Encounters

Order Calls for Pilot Program to Study Effectiveness of Documenting All Encounters

Today, a federal court ordered the NYPD to begin recording all police-citizen investigative encounters – including low level interactions – as part of a pilot program to study the potential benefits and costs of implementing such a requirement department-wide. The order was in response to a request by the attorneys behind the three landmark class actions that challenged the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk and trespass enforcement practices (Floyd v. City of New York, Ligon v. City of New York, and Davis v. City of New York), and a coalition of community stakeholders who urged the court to order the NYPD to implement community-generated reforms.

“Recording all police encounters with New Yorkers helps engender trust and provides the foundation for accountability,” said Angel Harris, Assistant Counsel at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. and counsel for the Davis plaintiffs. “Importantly, this reform came directly from the communities most impacted by the NYPD’s discriminatory and unconstitutional trespass enforcement practices. We hope that this is just the first of many community-generated reforms that the court orders the NYPD to implement.”

The community input process, ordered by the court to address the NYPD’s constitutional violations and known as the Joint Remedial Process, was conducted over the last three years. Last month, the court-appointed facilitator overseeing the Joint Remedial Process issued a report on his recommendations based on community input, and the plaintiffs asked the court to order the NYPD to implement his suggested changes. To date, the NYPD has opposed the facilitator’s proposed reforms.

Today’s order issued by the court requires the NYPD to electronically record low-level police-citizen encounters, otherwise known as “Level 1 and 2 investigative encounters”, as part of a pilot program aimed at measuring the relative benefits and costs of this change. This reform was born out of community input and was recommended by the court-appointed facilitator of the Joint Remedial Process. After the pilot, the court-appointed monitor will report to the court on whether the program should be expanded or terminated.

“The court agreed with us and the more than 90 community organizations who supported this reform that there is a need to record investigative encounters on the street,” said Jenn Rolnick Borchetta, Deputy Director of Impact Litigation at The Bronx Defenders. “We hope that this pilot will turn a spotlight on NYPD activity that has been in the darkness so we can ensure unlawful stops do not continue.”

“We are pleased that the facilitator and now the court have taken seriously the plaintiffs’ and community stakeholders’ concerns about the problems with lower-level street encounters conducted by NYPD officers,” said Darius Charney, a Senior Staff Attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights and counsel for the Floyd plaintiffs. “If done right, this pilot can be an important first step toward addressing those problems and thus help move the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk practices closer to constitutional compliance.”

This marks the first court-ordered reform in response to the community input process. The facilitator’s other proposed reforms include progressive discipline standards for officers who violate peoples’ rights during stop encounters, a community board and survey to assess the NYPD’s implementation of the court-ordered reforms, and improved information on people with disabilities in stop-and-frisk training. The court has yet to rule on those recommendations.

Read the court’s order here.

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Founded in 1940, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) is the nation’s first civil and human rights law organization and has been completely separate from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) since 1957—although LDF was originally founded by the NAACP and shares its commitment to equal rights. LDF’s Thurgood Marshall Institute is a multi-disciplinary and collaborative hub within LDF that launches targeted campaigns and undertakes innovative research to shape the civil rights narrative. In media attributions, please refer to us as the NAACP Legal Defense Fund or LDF.

The Center for Constitutional Rights is dedicated to advancing and protecting the rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Founded in 1966 by attorneys who represented civil rights movements in the South, CCR is a non-profit legal and educational organization committed to the creative use of law as a positive force for social change. Visit www.ccrjustice.org and follow @theCCR.