As public advocate, Bill de Blasio awarded the NYPD an "F" grade when it came to the department's willingness to respond to Freedom Of Information Law (FOIL) requests. Findings from the study, released in April, showed that 28 percent of requests took the department more than 60 days to answer, and that 31 percent of requests were never answered at all. A few months later, in July, NYPD spokesperson Paul Browne relinquished his throne amid a veritable tidal wave of criticism from enraged reporters, who largely accused him of using his position not only to distribute the minimum amount of information possible, but in some cases, actively lie about NYPD misconduct, Minister of Truth style. And now, it seems, the days of police blotters have reached their inglorious end as well.
DNAinfo has the scoop on a curt memo sent last week banning the city's 77 precincts from distributing crime reports to reporters, the grist for police blotters in papers everywhere. “Any requests by media to view complaint reports be referred to the office of the Deputy Commissioner For Public Information," it said.
This department, known as DCPI, is typically used to disseminate information on only the most egregious offenses, like sexual assaults and murders, not low level crimes like burglaries and muggings that residents of a particular neighborhood might nevertheless want to know about.
We called DCPI to find out whether staff would be expanded to better handle the invariable increase in reporter phone calls, and were told that personnel issues are not discussed publicly. Would any measures be implemented to handle the higher volume of requests? "I don't know," the voice on the line scoffed. "I'm just a lieutenant."
It's unclear whether this new layer of obfuscation will continue under Commissioner Bill Bratton.
“This is just another sign of the current NYPD’s hostility to public accountability," said Chris Dunn, the associate legal director of NYCLU. "Starting in January, we expect the department to take a dramatically different approach to openness, one that will benefit not only local newspapers but the press and public in general.”