This week, the New York Civil Liberties Union filed suit against the New York Police Department for failing to comply with a Freedom of Information Act request made after the deadly police shooting of Sean Bell, a young, unarmed African-American, in 2006. The shooting, which took place after Bell’s bachelor party on the night before his wedding, spurred a public outcry against police brutality and racism, and the organization sought from the NYPD statistics on the race of victims of police shootings. A police spokesperson stated that the statistics on race were often in individual reports that for a number of reasons are “exempt from disclosure.”
Up until 1998, the data released by the NYPD on police shootings included information regarding the race of the victim. Compiled reports for 1996 and 1997 revealed that almost 90% of persons shot by police officers were either black or hispanic. According to former police chief Louis Anemone, in 1998 police commissioner Howard Safir altered the department’s policy, calling for the removal of statistics on race from the annual reports. Anemone’s testimony was included in the brief filed by the Civil Liberties Union, and according to The New York Times, Safir was not available for comment on Anemone’s claim. While Anemone did not comment on the purpose behind Safir’s decision, he did speculate that it could have been related to the 1999 killing of an unarmed West African immigrant, which took place just before the 1998 report was finished. Officers fired 41 times at Amadou Diallo, and his death electrified the city with racial tension and accusations of police misconduct.
Source: The New York Times