Nassau police report nearly 500 complaints in 2021, less than 15% ‘founded’

Nassau police report nearly 500 complaints in 2021, less than 15% ‘founded’
The Nassau County Police Department said they received 491 complaints last year, according to statistics in a police reform report this year. (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

A total of 491 complaints were filed against the Nassau County Police Department in 2021, the highest number since 507 were reported in 2016, according to statistics outlined in the department’s annual police reform report.

The total included 203 improper procedure complaints, 148 for unprofessional conduct, 28 for excessive force, 17 for neglect of duty, 15 for unlawful conduct, 9 for racial/ethnic bias and 9 for false arrest.

In 2017, a total of 434 complaints were reported, followed by 438 in 2018, 456 in 2019 and 291 as of October 2020. Statistics did not show how many complaints were filed from November-December 2020.

Of the 491 complaints, a total of 66 were ‘founded’ by Nassau police, the statistics showed.

From 2016 to 2021, 30 people won court judgments against the Nassau County Police Departments for 41 allegations of false arrest and excessive force, according to an article in the Gothamist, an online publication.

For 38 of the allegations, the Nassau County Attorney’s Office funded case settlements while prohibiting the accuser to publicly speak on the allegations, the story said.

No cases of false arrest and excessive force were ‘founded’ from 2016-2021.

The statistics were released by the Nassau County Police Department in its annual police reform report submitted to the county.

The department is required to submit a yearly police reform report in accordance with an executive order signed into law by former Gov. Andrew Cuomo in 2020.

The order requires police agencies to devise plans to “reinvent and modernize police strategies” after Minneapolis police killed George Floyd two years ago.

The New York Civil Liberties Union, in ongoing litigation against the Nassau County Police Department, has sought department misconduct records. 

The department has denied their requests despite the repeal of Civil Rights Law 50-a in 2020, which permitted police departments from disclosing misconduct and other personnel records. 

A lower court sided with the Nassau Police Department Department, a decision appealed by the New York Civil Liberties Union.

The Civil Liberties Union, according to court documents, filed a Freedom of Information Law request with the Nassau County Police Department in September 2020.

The organization requested access to the department’s disciplinary records, use of force, field interviews, civilian complaints and investigative reports, among others.

“The lower court’s ruling improperly resurrected 50-a to continue blocking access to decades of police misconduct records,” Bobby Hodgson, a supervising attorney at the ACLU said in a statement. “For too long, Nassau County residents have remained in the dark about officers accused of misconduct, the outcomes of investigations, and what discipline officers faced, if any.”

State Supreme Court Justice Roy S. Mahon denied the ACLU’s motion to mandate the department provide all of the misconduct data requested.

Efforts to reach officials from the police department for further comment were unavailing.

Cuomo signed the repeal of Civil Rights Law Section 50-a into law in 2020.

The Nassau County Police Department, according to court documents, had denied requests for police records prior to June 2020, when 50-a was repealed.

The ACLU, a not-for-profit corporation set up to defend civil rights and civil liberties, said it was informed by the police department that the union “should receive a response within [45] business days.”

The department, according to court documents, did not respond to the request within 45 days, claiming an unexpected emergency medical leave caused the delays but said the ACLU could expect a response by Dec. 4, 2020.

The department, on Dec. 11, denied portions of the request, saying that some were “not reasonably described to allow the department to locate and identify the documents sought.”

Even if the union reasonably described the request, the department said in the response it would not have been able to comply with the request of disciplinary records, field interviews and use of force “due to its breadth.”

Atara Miller, a partner at Milbank LLP, which is providing the ACLU with pro bono counsel in this matter, called on the state’s Appellate Division Second Department to reverse the decision in a statement.

“The repeal of Section 50-a by the New York State Legislature signaled a clear intention to promote transparency of police misconduct through public access to police disciplinary records,” Miller said.

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