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Judge: NYPD Must Turn Over #BLM Surveillance

A New York state judge has ruled that the New York Police Department must turn over surveillance material related to Black Lives Matter protests at the city’s Grand Central Terminal in 2014 and 2015. The ruling is a win for civil liberty advocates who believed the NYPD had violated rules linked to Freedom of Information laws (FOIL).

James Logue, who had attended a #BLM protest in 2014 noticed officers recording the activities of the demonstrators, according to a lawsuit he filed, but believed the action violated the First Amendment rights of those participating. In response he filed FOIL requests for the media and records taken by the NYPD, New York State Police, the Metropolitan Transit Authority Police and the Metro-North Railroad.

The MTA and Metro-North accommodated Logue’s request, with “partial redactions,” the court document says. But the New York State Police denied the request flatly and the NYPD rejected his request saying much of what he wanted was given to him by the first two agencies, and also that turning over the material could potentially compromise criminal investigations.

But New York Supreme Court Judge Manuel Mendez said that the NYPD had not met the burden of proving they deserve an exemption and ruled that they must comply with the request. Logue did not appeal the New York State Police’s denial of his request.

“They fail to show that redacting the relevant information, as was done with MTA and Metro-North records, would not provide sufficient protection for NYPD undercover officers, their techniques and records,” the ruling states.

“The NYPD often attempts to avoid accountability by insisting on the need for blanket secrecy,”New York Civil Liberties Union senior staff attorney Mariko Hirose said in an e-mail to Gothamist.com. “This decision ensures that the NYPD cannot shroud its operations in secrecy by relying on vague references to law enforcement interests.”


Image: Demonstrators storm New York’s Grand Central Terminal protesting a grand jury’s decision not to indict a police officer involved in the chokehold death of Eric Garner. Photo: Andrew Burton / Getty Images