The Chief
March 10, 2006

NYPD Gets 2nd Order to Give Cop Files to PA

By REUVEN BLAU

A Manhattan Supreme Court Justice March 3 granted a new preliminary injunction and reordered the NYPD to release personnel records of 35 of its officers to the Port Authority Police Department.

                                                      PATRICK J.               LYNCH: NYPD policy a bad one.     PATRICK J. LYNCH: NYPD policy a bad one. Last month, the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association sued the NYPD, charging that it was purposely withholding information in an attempt to prevent the officers from transferring to the better-paying Port Authority.

The city appealed Justice Sheila Abdus-Salaam's Feb. 9 decision requiring the NYPD to give PA investigators access to the employment records.

Lynch: Sends a Message

PBA President Patrick J. Lynch asserted that last week's ruling "should send a message to the NYPD that this is a bad policy that they should rescind immediately and permanently abandon for the future."

The release of the records, however, was stayed when the city indicated it would once again appeal.

The officers stand to earn 57 percent more by working for the PA, which has a maximum salary of $94,000 after five years on the job. NYPD cops currently receive $59,588 after 5-1/2 years.

Despite the latest legal setback, the NYPD maintained that it was following standard personnel procedures. "The practice of the NYPD in declining to furnish copies of personnel files of police officers to other potential employers is consistent with the widespread general practice of employers in the United States today," contended Andrew Shaffer, the NYPD's Deputy Commissioner for Legal Matters.

'No Rational Basis'

Justice Abdus-Salaam, however, ruled that the department has so far shown no "rational basis" concerning its "policy of allowing NYPD members access to their personnel files, but prohibiting these members from sharing this information with investigators from a different police agency."

She added, "In fact, no explanation is proffered, other than that this is the policy and that the Commissioner should be able to promulgate any policy that he thinks is best."

During the Feb. 8 hearing, city attorneys contended that the officers could obtain some of the personnel information via Freedom of Information Law requests. They also claimed the NYPD changed its policy regarding releasing personnel files in 2003 as a way to avoid legal liability.

The officers' union attorneys, however, maintained that the NYPD has refused to release key records which the Port Authority uses to check the veracity of the officers' interview responses. Other agencies, they noted, often make the officers take a polygraph test.

As for getting the information through FOIL requests, PBA attorney Richard Steer said, "The Port Authority doesn't want some copy that the officer gets." He contended that immediate relief was necessary because one of the officers was going to turn 35 in August, which would exceed the PA's hiring-age limit.

"This harm is irreparable because it cannot be adequately compensated by monetary damages," Ms. Abdus-Salaam ruled.