U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

New York reporter abruptly dropped from online forum

Incident Details

October 3, 2023

Freelance reporter Emily Swanson was removed from a Zoom meeting hosted by the New York Police Department on Oct. 3, 2023, after identifying herself as a reporter, she told the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker.

Swanson had received an emailed invitation on Sept. 29 to a “Community CompStat Forum” from an NYPD community affairs officer for the 41st Precinct in the Bronx. The forum was one of a series of meetings at which the NYPD presents crime statistics from its publicly available CompStat database, and was hosted by the Chief of Department Jeffrey B. Maddrey, the NYPD’s highest-ranking uniformed member.

The emailed invitation, reviewed by the Tracker, noted that “the purpose of the forum is for the NYPD to answer questions and address concerns the communities may have.” The NYPD also solicited questions from the public on social media. It was left unclear if the meeting was public or by invitation only.

Swanson said she had also attended other meetings held by the 41st Precinct, at which she had identified herself as a journalist in a sign-in book.

When Swanson logged on to the Oct. 3 meeting, some attendees introduced themselves in the chat, so she posted her name and phone number and identified herself as a reporter from the Bronx Times, an outlet for which she freelances. She also asked the meeting’s host, whose username was “the chief of departments,” whether a recording of the meeting would be available to attendees later. She did not receive a response.

After about 20 minutes, Swanson said, a notification popped up on her screen that she had been removed from the meeting by its host. “At first I thought it was some sort of glitch or technical thing,” she said. “It was pretty abrupt. It just seemed like they were kind of in the middle of presenting the data — nothing had been talked about that you couldn’t find on the website.”

When she clicked on the meeting link, she was unable to log back in to the meeting.

Swanson reached out to the NYPD’s Office of the Deputy Commissioner, Public Information, or DCPI, to ask why she had been removed from the meeting, but did not receive a response. She later submitted a complaint to New York City’s Civilian Complaint Review Board.

A DCPI spokesperson told the Tracker via email that the Bronx Zoom meeting was by invitation only. “A review of the guest list determined the individual was not invited to this zoom meeting and therefore was removed.”

Regarding the invitation that Swanson did receive, DCPI reiterated that “this individual was not on the NYPD confirmed invitee list.” Community Affairs Officer Melvin Payamps of the 41st Precinct, who sent the email invitation to Swanson, did not respond to a request for comment.

The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker catalogues press freedom violations in the United States. Email tips to [email protected].