How Do the Police Police Themselves?

Not much in New York State. But that can change: Behind the Badge New York

From New York Civil Liberties Union Executive Director Donna Lieberman:

It’s a simple question, but when the NYCLU asked police departments across the state, we got wildly different answers.

Over three years ago, we filed Freedom of Information Law requests in court to find information on 23 police departments, including their policies on high-stakes interactions like uses of force, data on whom they stop and why, and how they train their officers. We poured over 15,600 pages of documents, many of which the public has never seen, to piece together a comprehensive understanding of what rules govern police actions.

Last week, we released all of the documents for seven of the largest departments and our analysis in a first-of-its-kind resource we’re calling Behind the Badge.

What we found paints a disturbing picture of police officers being sent out without clear rules on when they should use force, departments using military-grade technology to spy on residents, and glaring differences in the rates that people of color are stopped by officers.

But just as troubling is what we didn’t find. The Albany Police Department couldn’t produce any policy on stops. The Nassau Police Department said they were unable to provide basic information on how many people its officers stopped or arrested. And the Syracuse Police Department had no meaningful guidance on using force, except for their Taser policy, which only exists as a result of a settlement with the NYCLU.

In short: there are very few policies in place that police the police.

That’s why we need to hold the police accountable, to ensure that officers in our neighborhoods have clear, fair, and transparent policies, and that they are following them. To learn more about Behind the Badge and what actions you can take in your own community, visit