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December 14, 2020

The custodian of the records containing the names of retired police officer may refuse to disclose such names demanded pursuant to a Freedom of Information Law request

Supreme Court granted the CPLR Article 78 petition filed by the Empire Center for Public Policy [Empire Center] seeking an order compelling New York City Police Pension Fund [Fund], under color of New York State's Freedom of Information Law [FOIL], to provide unredacted records disclosing the names of all police officers retiring during fiscal year 2017 other than the names which the Fund had earlier withheld in response to Empire Center's 2014 FOIL request.

The Fund appealed portions of the Supreme Court's ruling and the Appellate Division, unanimously modified the Supreme Court's order, on the law.

The Appellate Division first noted that Supreme Court had properly upheld the Fund's decision to refuse to disclose the names of 2008 to 2014  police officer retirees as [1] duplicative and, or, [2] time-barred.

Addressing the Fund opposition to disclosure of records providing the names of the retired police officer retirees demanded by Empire Center, the Appellate Division noted that the Fund had submitted affidavits outlining the dangers faced by police officers generally, and detailing the risks retired officers faced in particular, including thefts of handguns and assaults by persons they had arrested during their careers.

Citing Matter of Bellamy v New York City Police Dept., 87 AD3d 874, the Appellate Division opined that the Fund met its burden of showing a possibility that disclosure of [such] names could endanger the lives or safety of police retirees, as required to exempt them from disclosure pursuant to Public Officers Law §87(2)(f)".

Public Officers Law §87(2), among other limitations concerning the disclosure of its records, provides that "Each agency shall, in accordance with  its  published  rules,  make   available  for  public  inspection  and copying all records, except that  such agencymay deny access to records or portions thereof* that:

 "(a) are specifically exempted from disclosure by state or federal statute; and

 "(f) if disclosed could endanger the life or safety of any person."

* Emphasis supplied.

The decision is posted on the Internet at http://www.nycourts.gov/reporter/3dseries/2020/2020_06949.htm

 

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