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New NYCLU Website Aims To Bring Transparency To Police Department Policies

ROCHESTER, NY (WXXI) - The New York Civil Liberties Union is out with a new online resource called Behind the Badge, which provides information on the internal policies and data from several police departments around the state.

Among the major points the NYCLU made in its review of RPD’s practices, was the fact that the department has used ‘Stingrays,' which the civil liberties group says allows police to spy on cell phones.

Director for the group’s Genesee Valley Chapter, Iman Abid, says the organization has concerns about not knowing how the use of that equipment was authorized in some cases.

“I think it’s incredibly important to start talking about that, just because there’s just so much information being collected on communities of color, or if it’s the immigrant community that lives in the area; communities that are incredibly skeptical already of the department itself.”

Abid says another concern they have with information gleaned from the Rochester Police Department is that 89%  of those arrested in the city over a three-year period for low level marijuana possession were people of color.

“As we’re talking about trying to pass legislation on decriminalizing marijuana and the fact that we’re still not having this conversation at large, as a community, I think is very baffling to me. Especially with the amount of people it impacts; such a low level offense, it could actually hold people back from careers, it can hold them back from buying homes, purchasing cars."

Abid did credit Rochester Police for responding to Freedom of Information requests in a timely manner.

RPD officials say that they are still reviewing the website, but they do say that much of the information in it is three to four years old, and no longer accurate. Police officials also say that RPD used the cell phone technology, lawfully, on all 13 occasions listed in the website.

RPD says it does appreciate the NYCLU's interest in these issues and looking forward to a continuing dialogue with them. Officials say that once they have had an opportunity to review the Behind the Badge website in detail, they will provide additional details where warranted.

Officials do say that current policy documents and relevant information is available to the public on the RPD’s Open Data Portal, at:  https://data-rpdny.opendata.arcgis.com/

The NYCLU expects to add more police departments to its Behind the Badge website in the future.