September 30, 2020

Milbank, NYCLU File for Release of NY Police Records for Misconduct and Race-Based Policing


In collaboration with the New York Civil Liberties Union (“NYCLU”), Milbank LLP has filed Freedom of Information Law (“FOIL”) requests for records pertaining to misconduct and race-based policing from three of the largest police departments in New York State.

The FOIL requests seek police department disciplinary records from the Nassau County, Freeport and Hempstead Police Departments, focusing on patterns of race-based policing. Milbank and the NYCLU have requested this data on matters ranging from misconduct allegations and detention records to enforcement actions and diversity of police officers, with the goal of initiating statewide law enforcement policy reforms that address race-based practices. Milbank is one of four Big Law firms partnering with the NYCLU in its effort to obtain disciplinary records and other data from ten police departments across New York State.

This broad initiative from the NYCLU and its law firm partners follows the landmark June 12, 2020 repeal of section 50-a of the New York State civil rights law. The 50-a statute previously permitted law enforcement to refuse disclosure of personnel records that could be used to evaluate future employment or promotion—a narrow exemption that was interpreted broadly by courts and allowed police departments to shield almost all disciplinary records from the public eye.

The Milbank pro bono team includes Chairman Scott A. Edelman, Litigation and Arbitration partners Atara Miller and Errol Taylor, and associates Andrew Wellin, Kingdar Prussien and Elizabeth O’Reilly.

Ms. Miller said, “The repeal of 50-a was a watershed moment for police transparency across the state of New York and helped clear a path for the public release of records that can hold law enforcement officers accountable. We are proud to partner with the NYCLU on this FOIL request initiative, which is a crucial next step in identifying and addressing misconduct in New York police departments.”