The NYPD’s arsenal of surveillance gear includes license plate readers, X-ray-equipped box trucks, body cameras, cellphone tower simulators, facial recognition software, a gunshot detection system, and a vast network of cameras and chemical sensors in the five boroughs and beyond. Given that much of what the public knows about New York City police’s spyware is thanks to public records requests and courtroom fights, there’s likely more that the NYPD is using and not disclosing. For example, in 2014, Miller and former police commissioner Bill Bratton said they had explored acquiring drones, so have they? A reporter’s long legal battle over drone documents has shown that the NYPD doesn’t want us to find out.
“The public should not have to learn about these technologies through costly litigation,” New York Civil Liberties Union legislative counsel Rashida Richardson testified at the hearing, saying the group supports the bill.
Contrary to the premise of the bill and the assertions of legislators and privacy advocates, Miller said that the NYPD is a model of transparency, and follows all privacy laws.
“The New York City Police Department is the most transparent municipal police department in the world,” he said. “A broad categorization that the NYPD is not transparent would be simply false.”
The NYPD is not transparent. The department was one of two city agencies to get an F grade in transparency from Bill de Blasio’s office when he was public advocate in 2013. In 2014, the department’s Freedom of Information Law Office claimed that its public records handbook was exempt from disclosure. When the agency finally did release the handbook, it incorrectly stated the length of time that records officers have to respond to FOIL requests as 10 days, double the actual window of time specified by law. The NYPD also only accepts FOIL requests by snail mail, another violation of state law.