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Sandro Rosell
FC Barcelona President
Monday, September 25, 2017

The NYPD has agreed to handle and accept record requests via email, after a lawsuit was settled last week regarding the NYPD’s compliance with the Freedom of Information Act. In a report Friday, the Village Voice noted that since 2006, the FOI Law has required that government agencies “accept requests for records submitted in the form of electronic mail and [to] respond to such requests by electronic mail.” The NYPD has finally agreed to follow this provision following a lawsuit by law student and activist Keegan Stephan. 

Stephan’s lawsuit related to a Freedom of Information request he had made regarding the NYPD’s use of Long Range Acoustic Devices (LRADS), better known as sound cannons, against protesters with the Black Lives Matter movement in 2014. The protests were held following the death of Eric Garner, an African-American man killed after being placed in a chokehold by an NYPD officer (a move prohibited by the NYPD’s code of conduct). In violation of the law, the NYPD refused Stephan’s request to receive FOIL communications via email. 

In an interview with the New York Times Thursday, Stephan described the Freedom of Information Law as “a mechanism the public can use to hold the NYPD accountable to their own policies. We realized the police were not abiding by the Freedom of Information Law as it stood.” 

Stephan scored a victory after a judge approved the settlement Thursday, a move which will pressure the NYPD to provide greater transparency or risk facing legal consequences. 

“We have an explicit agreement in the form of a judicial order, so if it is violated we can go back to the court,” Stephan’s lawyers told the NY Times.  

“We hope this will be a real tool for increased transparency.”  

Bob Freeman, the executive director of New York’s Committee on Open Government, reacted in stronger terms to the NYPD’s repeated flouting of the FOIL. 

“The NYPD has been in so many ways hostile to freedom of information law,” Freeman said, according to the Village Voice.

“It’s unfortunate that a government agency has simply ignored a provision of law that has been in effect for more than a decade — and that goes double for a law enforcement agency! It should never have taken a lawsuit to encourage the government to conform with the law.”  

While Freeman acknowledged that the FOIL is “an imperfect tool,” he observed that “the more we can hold them accountable, the better it is for everyone. This case is proof of that.”

By:  Eliezer Elnt