A database that contained information about complaints about thousands of NYPD officers was published by a news website despite the temporary restraining order issued by a federal judge on the public release of said documents just a few days before.
News outlet ProPublica posted the database on their website adding a note telling its readers that since it is not part of a party to a union lawsuit that challenges said records, it is not compelled to follow the orders issued by Judge Katherine Polk Failla
According to the Associated Press, Eric Umansky, ProPublica's Deputy Managing Editor, obtained the information after requesting it from the Civilian Complaint Review Board, which serves as a watchdog agency of the police. It was also stated that the request was made soon after the state law that prohibited the disclosure of disciplinary records was repealed last month.
The issue on the release of the said records erupted after New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio promised to release misconduct complaints against the police on a government website. On July 15, a lawsuit was then filed by public safety workers and unions representing the police officers to block de Blasio's promise. In their statement, the unions said that releasing such records could stain the reputation and compromise the safety of police officers by letting the public see false and unproven claims.
Earlier this month, a state judge who initially handled the case issued a restraining order on which temporarily blocked the disclosure of the records. However, it only encompassed allegations, claims that were unsubstantiated and settlement agreements.
PBS also stated in a report that ProPublica has claimed that the database they published did not include the allegations that investigators considered as unfounded. On the uploaded database, it can be seen that there have been 12,056 complaints filed against 3,996 NYPD officers who are still in active service.
In a statement by the news website's Editor-in-Chief Stephen Engelberg, he said that while they understand the arguments that have been laid out against the disclosure of the information, the organization believes that the public will benefit from the information. He also added that they believe that the good that said information would bring outweighs the possible harm.
Based on the ruling that was given by Federal Judge Failla on Wednesday, the police department, the CCRB, and other parties are blocked from releasing the records before the hearing on August 18. In addition, in the TRO that was issued, the American Civil Liberties Union (New York Chapter) was also barred from releasing the records that they have obtained.
Like ProPublica, the organization also argued that they are not obligated to stand by restraining order since they are not a party to the lawsuit.
Christopher Dunn, NYLU's legal director stated that the federal court does not have the authority to bar the organization from releasing the records and stated that they will contest the ruling as soon as possible. He also stated that they were able to request the records before the lawsuit was filed.