U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Police union tries to prevent BuzzFeed from releasing NYPD disciplinary records

Incident Details


Two of the thousands of NYPD disciplinary records published by BuzzFeed on April 16, 2018

— BuzzFeed
April 11, 2018

New York’s largest police union demanded the New York Police Department take legal action to stop BuzzFeed from publishing a database of police disciplinary records on April 11, 2018. 

“We demand that the Department and City immediately take all possible steps to prevent BuzzFeed’s disclosure of Confidential Files including, but not limited to, seeking an injunction in court,” Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association (PBA) president Patrick Lynch wrote in the April 11 letter, which was addressed to NYPD commissioner James O’Neill.

“As he has in the past, Mr. Lynch is accusing those who shine a light on bad behavior in the NYPD of stoking violence,” BuzzFeed spokesman Matt Mittenthal said in a statement. “His words are irresponsible, out of step with other police departments, and reminiscent of a time when police acted without accountability to the public. We are perplexed by why Mr. Lynch is so concerned about the privacy of powerful, armed public servants who have been found to lie, harass, and threaten people in their custody — and by what else the PBA is seeking to conceal with this preposterous legal threat.”

Until recently, the NYPD released information about officers’ disciplinary records to the public. But in August 2016, the department stopped doing so. At the time, an NYPD spokesman told the New York Daily News that the department’s Legal Bureau had determined that a provision in New York’s 1976 civil rights law allowed the NYPD to shield employees’ disciplinary records from public scrutiny.

Despite Lynch’s letter, the NYPD did not seek an injunction against BuzzFeed. On April 16, BuzzFeed published its database of secret NYPD disciplinary records, which includes officers’ names and allegations of misconduct.

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