The NYPD's Transparency Policies Make No Sense

Officer Richard Haste's departmental trial for the killing of teenager Ramarley Graham was open to the public, but records of the trial are not.


So public it's secret.
M. Stan Reaves/ZUMA Press/Newscom

Five years after one of the most notorious police shootings of the decade, the NYPD took a decisive step away from transparency and accountability in denying a Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request filed by the New York Daily News for the records from the departmental trial of Officer Richard Haste.

Haste just stood trial before an administrative judge on charges that he violated NYPD policy in the actions he took leading to him shooting and killing 18-year-old Ramarley Graham on February 2, 2012.

Haste was staking out a Bronx bodega hoping to bust a drug deal in progress, when he saw Graham leaving the store with what he thought was a gun in his waistband. Haste and another officer followed Graham home, where they kicked down his front door and entered. Moments later, Haste shot Graham—in front of his grandmother and six-year-old brother—as the teenager was flushing a small bag of marijuana down the toilet. No weapon was ever recovered.

The departmental trial is the latest reckoning for Haste, who was indicted for manslaughter but saw the charges dismissed after a procedural error by prosecutors in 2013. A subsequent grand jury declined to indict him a second time. In 2015, Graham's family settled a wrongful death suit against the city for $3.9 million. Haste is still on NYPD desk duty and his salary has increased by $30,000 since 2012, according to Gothamist.

NYPD departmental trials are strange. A judge writes an opinion recommending whether or not the charges against an officer should be upheld and what level of discipline—including dismissal from the police force—should be imposed. But that opinion can be overruled by the police commissioner. And although the NYPD made officer disciplinary records public for decades, it abruptly stopped doing so last year, citing a previously unknown state law which the department has interpreted is meant to protect officer privacy. NYPD Police Commissioner James O'Neill has said he would make an exception to that law—just this one time—and release the judge's recommendation on Haste's fate.

But here's where the NYPD's policy gets even stranger. Although the trial was open to the public, the NYPD has denied the Daily News' FOIL request to obtain the written record of the trial, citing that same law protecting officer privacy which Commissioner O'Neill says he will make an exception for in this case, but only for the result, not for the records.

Christopher Dunn of the New York Civil Liberties Union told the Daily News, "This denial perfectly illustrates the absurdity of the secrecy surrounding the NYPD's disciplinary process," adding, "It makes zero sense to refuse to release documents that were discussed and introduced into evidence at a trial that was fully open to the public."

The New York Civil Liberties Union and ten news organizations, including The New York Times, have filed suit against the city to change the NYPD's transparency practices, arguing that the current secrecy "deprive[s] journalists of information needed to accurately report on discipline imposed by [the] NYPD and to hold it accountable to the public it serves."

A decision by the First Judicial Department appeals court is expected within the next month.

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  1. Did you fact check this one, Anthony?

  2. Fucking pigs in New York make 94K? There’s part of the problem right there. Pay them what they’re worth, which is less than half of that. As human beings, they are worthless. As servants of the people, they are certainly not worth those wages.

    1. Starting salaries are way less (in the 40s) & I don’t have big problem with 94K for like a detective with many years of experience – it’s the outrageously generous benefits and pensions that are going to kill us.

    2. In Manhattan, that will get you an apartment the size of your average bathroom.

      1. This is something (among many others) that bothered me about the minimum wage discussion. $15 an hour might be appropriate for some jobs requiring a college degree in some low-cost parts of West Virginia (or other low cost states); it’s assistant-manager-at-a-fast-food-restaurant in Seattle or SF.

      2. Unlike what you might see on TV, no cop actually lives in Manhattan. Probably not for decades.

        1. Well, their fate of having to live in Jersey is all the punishment anyone should have to endure. In fact, I would consider that cruel and unusual punishment.

      3. “In Manhattan, that will get you an apartment the size of your average bathroom.”

        In Manhattan, that will get you an apartment the size of your average airplane bathroom.

  3. You expect the 7th largest army in the world (but not really) be free of self-interested bureaucracy?

  4. “The dismissal was for a technicality, as the Bronx DA’s office erroneously instructed members of the grand jury that they did not have to consider if Officer Richard Haste’s colleagues informed him that 18-year-old Ramarley Graham was armed.”

    If only there were a method by which mistakes by the grand jury could be corrected…like maybe holding a trial in which the prosecutor would have to prove the grand jury’s allegations…

    I would add that if the grand jury finds that a witness, or a prosecutor, lied or deceived them, they can order a trial for the offender.

    1. “I would add that if the grand jury finds that a witness, or a prosecutor, lied or deceived them, they can order a trial for the offender.”

      I mean, it *ought to be* that way, in my enthusiasm it looked like I was saying it *was* that way already. No, I’m simply suggesting a reform.

    2. I am sure that procedural error was completely accidental.

    3. If you’ll excuse me, Fusionist, when my daughters were naughty, they, too, were “corrected”…

      I think this grand jury has been very naughty indeed

        1. Delbert Grady? Geez…

  5. “…the current secrecy “deprive[s] journalists of information needed…”

    How are journalists going to do their jobs?

    “…to accurately report…” (emphasis added)

    so no real obstacle then.

  6. “The NYPD’s Transparency Policies Make No Sense”

    Here’s the lack of sense? A lack of ethics, sure. A lack of morals? Unquestionably. But these policies are clearly implemented to make holding police accountable for their behavior as difficult as possible. the the parasites in power, that makes PERFECT sense.

  7. RE: The NYPD’s Transparency Policies Make No Sense
    Officer Richard Haste’s departmental trial for the killing of teenager Ramarley Graham was open to the public, but records of the trial are not.

    This is known as CYA.
    Opening the trial records would only expose the truth.
    No Big Government agency wants that.
    Besides, Big Government only does what is best for the little people of this country…and yes, that does including killing them in cold blood for the convenience of the government.
    If that doesn’t make you proud to be an American, nothing will.

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