Investigative news platform ProPublica has bypassed a judge’s order and released thousands of complaints filed against New York City police. Meanwhile, protests against police tactics escalated in cities around the US.
Investigative journalism platform ProPublica on Sunday published a database containing previously-confidential disciplinary records for New York City police officers as protests in support of police reform erupted into violence in US cities over the weekend.
ProPublica Deputy Managing Editor Eric Umansky said the non-profit news group had requested the information from the Civilian Complaint Review Board — the police watchdog agency in New York City — last month after the repeal of a state law that for decades had prevented police disciplinary records from being disclosed.
Unions representing police officers then sued the city in an attempt to keep Mayor Bill de Blasio from following through with his plan to post misconduct complaints on a government website. The unions argued that the presence of unproven or false complaints among the files could compromise officers’ reputation and safety.
Last week, a federal judge had issued a temporary restraining order that halted the city from publicly releasing the information.
Good of sharing ‘outweighs’ potential harm
In a note on its website, ProPublica explained that it was not obligated to comply with the order because it was not involved in the lawsuit against the city.
The news organization said it had refrained from publishing allegations that investigators deemed unfounded.
The database contains 12,056 complaints against 3,996 active New York Police Department officers.
“We understand the arguments against releasing this data. But we believe the public good it could do outweighs the potential harm,” ProPublica Editor-in-Chief Stephen Engelberg said. “The database gives the people of New York City a glimpse at how allegations involving police misconduct have been handled, and allows journalists and ordinary citizens alike to look more deeply at the records of particular officers.”
Protests turn violent
The release of the information followed a weekend of unrest in cities around the US, where protests for racial justice and police reform have repeatedly turned violent.
A small group of protesters set fire to a courthouse and smashed windows at other federal and police buildings in Oakland, California on Saturday, news agency AP reported, an escalation after weeks of peaceful marches in the city.
Violence also flared in other cities in California. In Sacramento, a group of 150 protesters wearing black clothing and protective gear broke windows and spray painted graffiti. In Los Angeles, a peaceful protest was disrupted when individuals in the crowd attacked police officers, local police said on Twitter.