District attorneys in all five New York City boroughs are reportedly building out secret databases of cops with “credibility” issues, which if released could potentially have weighty implications for past convictions in the New York City area.
According to a Gothamist/WNYC report, district attorney’s offices in Manhattan, Brooklyn, the Bronx, Queens and Staten Island have compiled databases of police officers who have faced allegations of “credibility” issues. The names in the databases are culled from a number of sources, including past misconduct allegations and lawsuits; such information is reportedly supplied to prosecutors (and, in some cases, public defenders) so they can see if potential law enforcement witnesses are on the list before they take the stand. According to a former assistant DA, the database is known internally as the “bad cop list.”
While some of the DA’s offices interviewed by Gothamist/WNYC denied or refused to comment on whether or not they kept a so-called “bad cop” list, such lists would not be without precedent. Last year, the office for the district attorney in Philadelphia released its own list under court order following a Philadelphia Inquirer report attesting to its existence. The release of the list, which contained 66 police officers’ names, subsequently prompted the public defender’s office to petition the DA to reexamine thousands of convictions, as many of the officers on the list were members of units that made multiple arrests per day.
Although much of the information on the database could be protected by a provision in a local civil rights law that prevents the release of police officers’ performance evaluations, NYC attorneys and civil rights’ advocates are calling for the release of the lists, which they say could have implications for thousands of previous convictions, Chris Dunn, the legal director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, told Gothamist/WNYC. “The notion that district attorneys in New York are aware of police officers who have perjured themselves in criminal prosecutions, have put them on a list of people not to be called in cases as witness, is a public scandal,” he said. “We cannot have a criminal justice system that allows for police officers to perjure themselves, and then for that to be a secret.”