Headline: NYPD won’t release Adams’ disciplinary records
The NYPD has refused to release disciplinary records for Democratic mayoral nominee Eric Adams — despite a state law meant to lift the veil of secrecy around such documents.
Adams, the Brooklyn borough president, was an NYPD cop for 22 years, retiring as a captain in 2006. The future mayoral candidate was one of the department’s most vocal internal critics and founded a reform group, 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement Who Care. He has spoken publicly about being the target of four Internal Affairs Bureau investigations.
The NYPD has not released any documents related to Adams’ time as an officer, though, denying requests by POLITICO under the state’s Freedom of Information Law.
The state Legislature last year voted to make police disciplinary records public, repealing a law known as 50-a that kept them confidential. Law enforcement unions sued to stop the release, specifically objecting to publication of unsubstantiated allegations. They lost in court in February, and the publication of some records began.
But the NYPD is taking the position that it does not have to release records related to any investigation that does not result in a subsequent hearing or disciplinary action, or complaints that are not substantiated.
“To the extent that any ‘disciplinary records’ could be identified, access to those records is denied because disclosure of the records would constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy,” Sergeant Jordan S. Mazur wrote in a letter denying POLITICO’s appeal under the FOIL law.
They also say that because Adams is retired, even substantiated cases would not be released.
“Furthermore, the disclosure of any complaints that were classified as other than unsubstantiated would constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy based on the individual’s status as a retired member of service,” Mazur wrote.
The Civilian Complaint Review Board, by contrast, released a trove of records for the police veteran-turned-politician, showing he was never the subject of a civilian complaint. Adams was named as a witness in five complaints from 2002 to 2004, when he was a police lieutenant.
Adams was brought up on disciplinary charges and penalized 15 vacation days around the time he retired from the force in 2006 for giving an unauthorized TV interview where he criticized the NYPD’s response to a terror threat, according to his public statements and news coverage at the time.
By then, he had a long track record of speaking out against the department, and he said the charges were an attempt to smear him on his way out the door.
He was also probed twice over an NYPD rule barring associating with felons — once for acting as an escort to Mike Tyson after the boxer’s rape conviction. The other case involved a man with gun convictions whom Adams says he gave a ride to the subway after a rally.
Another probe targeted Adams and 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement, stemming from complaints by Black officers that they were harassed when they refused to criticize their unit. Adams’ group unsuccessfully sued the department alleging they were illegally wiretapped.
Adams says he did not face discipline in the latter three investigations.
The mayoral nominee declined to take a position on whether his disciplinary files should be released.
“The decision is the police department’s,” said his spokesperson Evan Thies. “There was, however, no reason for these politically motivated investigations decades ago, nor did they find any wrongdoing whatsoever.”
The CCRB has taken a different approach since the repeal of 50-a, releasing both substantiated and unsubstantiated complaints.
In the five complaint reports civilians filed against other officers, Adams was listed as a witness. None of those complaints were substantiated.
In one, a man alleged that he suffered cracked teeth, scraped knees and bleeding from the wrist during a run-in with police officers in Brooklyn. His complaints of excessive force and being denied medical treatment were either deemed unfounded, meaning the officer did not commit the alleged act, or exonerated, meaning the officer’s actions were legal.
Police officers were exonerated in another complaint in which a man said he was stopped and questioned in front of his home while entering his gate, and officers banged his face against the gate, scraping it and knocking him unconscious.
In a 2004 incident, a man complained that a police officer kicked him in the leg while arresting him for not having insurance on his car. The complainant subsequently would not cooperate with investigators, according to CCRB. Another complaint over a dispute around cab fare was also closed because of an uncooperative complainant.
A final complaint in which Adams was listed in a witness came in 2004, when a woman said several police officers entered her apartment during her daughter’s birthday party and arrested five people. Complaints including physical force, use of a nightstick as a club and use of pepper spray and a taser were either unfounded, exonerated, or unsubstantiated, meaning investigators did not have enough evidence to determine whether misconduct took place.
John Kaehny, executive director of Reinvent Albany, said keeping the NYPD’s records confidential doesn’t square with lawmakers’ intent when they repealed the secrecy law amid police reform protests last year.
“The entire point is to release disciplinary records,” he said. “The courts have already ruled on this and the Legislature has clearly spoken to it.”
The state Committee on Open Government has taken the position that law enforcement agencies may, but do not have to, withhold unfounded complaints if they deem them an invasion of privacy. But they say an officer’s retirement status should have no bearing on the release of records.
The NYPD also said that it could not find some of Adams’ records.
“‘Disciplinary records’ from the time in which Mr. Adams was employed by this agency are not maintained electronically, nor are they compiled in one case folder specific to that individual,” Mazur wrote. “A diligent search was conducted for responsive records; however, many of those records could not be located.”
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