Projects, Units & Initiatives
The Cop Accountability Project
The Cop Accountability Project (CAP) empowers organizations and communities across New York City to hold police officers accountable for human rights violations. The CAP project runs a database that tracks police misconduct in New York City and is used by public defense, civil rights, and human rights organizations. The database has become a national model for defenders collecting police misconduct materials and has been featured in the American Bar Association, The Intercept, WNYC, and presented at the National Legal Aid and Defender Association, the National Association for Civilian Oversight of Law Enforcement, the Quattrone Center, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, as well as human rights venues like the NYU Bernstein Center, among many more.
CAP has also curated a database for the public, available at CAPstat.nyc which allows users to browse thousands of federal civil rights lawsuits filed against NYPD officers, in addition to other public information. CAPstat, has been featured in The New York Times, New York Law Journal, New York Daily News, El Diario and more.
Beyond the database, CAP works to improve police accountability and transparency by advocating against problematic policing policies, fighting policy secrecy laws and litigating Freedom of Information Law denials. Our advocacy has been covered by the Capitol Pressroom, The New York Times, the New York Law Journal, The Associated Press, the New York Daily News, and more.
Racial Disparities in NYPD’s COVID-19 Policing
To better understand the disproportionate impacts of the NYPD’s COVID-19 related enforcement, the Legal Aid Society analyzed social distancing complaints made through 311 between March 28 and May 12, COVID-19 related summonses reported by the NYPD between March 16 and May 5, and internally-tracked COVID-19 related arrests that took place between March 27 and May 2. Read the full report and see our interactive maps here.
CAP brings individual and class action federal civil rights lawsuits to make necessary changes to policing in New York City. Our docket includes:
Uniformed Fire Officers Association v. de Blasio, 1:20-cv-05441-KPF (SDNY)
The Legal Aid Society is participating as an amicus curiae in opposition to the a lawsuit brought by several law enforcement unions that seeks to deny New Yorkers access to critical police and correction officer disciplinary records. This lawsuit is a backdoor effort to stymie the repeal of Police Secrecy Law 50-a, passed by an overwhelming majority in the New York State Legislature and signed into law by Governor Andrew Cuomo in June.
Amicus brief opposing a preliminary injunction
Medina v. City of New York, 1:19-CV-09412-AJN (SDNY)
This lawsuit challenges the NYPD’s use of excessive force–specifically the continued use of chokeholds and misuse of tasers–on behalf of Tomas Medina, who was brutally assaulted by an officer arising from a noise complaint in Washington Heights in the summer of 2018. Despite the NYPD’s formal policy banning chokeholds, NYPD police officers still regularly misuse this dangerous maneuver. Between January 2015 and June 2018, the City has settled at least 30 lawsuits involving the use of chokeholds by the NYPD. During that same time period, the New York City Civilian Complaint Review Board (“CCRB”) received at least 582 allegations of NYPD officers using chokeholds against civilians.
Equally disturbing, NYPD officers wrongly deploy Tasers in situations where civilians have shown no active aggression. The NYPD also overuses Tasers once they are deployed, with multiple or prolonged shocks resulting in needless pain and injury to civilians. Between January 2015 and June 2018, the City has settled at least 14 lawsuits involving the use of Tasers by NYPD officers. Mr. Medina’s lawsuit seeks reforms to stop the NYPD from tolerating and encouraging these continued violent and illegal acts.
Cornell Holden et al., v. The Port Authority of NY and NJ et al, 17-CV-02192(JGK)(RL)
Plaintiffs challenge the Port Authority Police Department’s discriminatory practice of using plainclothes police officers in men’s bathrooms to target men they perceive to be attracted to other men for false accusations of public lewdness. This case is pending trial in the Southern District of New York.
See coverage of these arrests in The New York Times.
Ruben An v. the City of New York, 16-CV-05381 (LGS)
In this First Amendment case for injunctive and declaratory relief, Mr. An fought for recognition of the right to record police encounters after he was falsely arrested in retaliation for refusing to stop recording a public police encounter. The case settled for the creation of a new Patrol Guide Section 203-29 “When A Member of the Service Encounters an Individual Observing, Photographing, and/or Recording Police Activity” that specifically instructs police that “[i]ndividuals have a right to lawfully observe and/or record police activity” in addition to related training and messaging alerts around the new Patrol Guide rule.
D.H., et al. v. the City of New York, et al, 16-CV-7698 (PKC)(KNF)
This lawsuit, brought on behalf of eight women, both cis- and transgender, sought to strike New York State Penal Law 240.37, which criminalized loitering for the purposes of prostitution, for being unconstitutionally vague and leaving marginalized New Yorkers vulnerable to discriminatory policing practices. The case settled for a revision of the Patrol Guide section related to policing loitering for the purposes of prostitution, related training and a limited period of auditing new arrests for compliance.