Months After Traffic Deaths, NYPD Denies Access to Crash Information

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At the beginning of the year, Streetsblog embarked on a project we hope will shed light on city pedestrian and cyclist fatalities that appear to have been written off as blameless "accidents." To date, we have filed freedom of information requests with NYPD pertaining to 10 pedestrian deaths, and will be reporting on the progress of those requests, along with those submitted in the future.

It’s no secret that NYPD takes a proprietary approach to traffic death data. Even family members are kept waiting for details about incidents that took the lives of loved ones. So though our goal is to examine crash investigations themselves, this effort will be as much about the process of extracting information from police.

Case in point: Our initial 10 requests were mailed on January 27. The date of the earliest fatality was November 30 of 2009, the most recent January 26. Today we received denials from NYPD for six of those requests. Here’s the legalese as it appears above:

In regard to the document(s) which you requested, I must deny access to these records on the basis of Public Officers Law section 87(2)(g)(iii) as such records/information does not represent final agency determination.

Note that this reasoning differs from that cited in denying information about the death of cyclist Solange Raulston.

The crashes referenced in our requests resulted in the deaths of Frank Justich, Arthur Katz, Mary Mason, Virginia McKibbin, Abundio Mendez-Perez, Joe Rollino, Edith Shaller, Catorino Solis, and two unidentified victims — one in Brooklyn, one in Manhattan. In each of these cases, press reports either made no mention of charges against the driver or indicated that the driver was already cleared of culpability. In their letters to us, NYPD did not provide names to match their file numbers, so at this point we are following up to ascertain which requests were denied.

As allowed by law, we will appeal NYPD’s denials. We’ll keep you updated.

  • archie

    you’re doing noble work. keep it up.

  • DingDong

    Can you post the Code section that they cited? It doesn’t make sense if we don’t know what the Code section says. I will note that it is entirely normal (and, frankly, somewhat understandable) that records relating to ongoing investigations are not released. I say this as someone who has been on the plaintiffs’ side of a number of FOIA lawsuits.

  • Boris

    Are any of the ten cases figuring in civil suits? At least one of the ten drivers must have some cash in the bank.

  • BicyclesOnly

    Lawyers in civil suits can get the information. But the broader public has a right to timely information as well. Not months or years after the investigation. NYPD’s stonewalling will cost lives, as dangerous undisclosed conditions continue to cause crashes.

  • christine berthet

    BRAVO for this initiative: Interesting , crashes ARE NOT treated as CRIMES, but indeed when we want information , then …oh Well..

    We have found that the most effective way to get that info is through elected officials and DOT Which is subject to local law 19-180 that we worked on in 2008

    http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=447127&GUID=F8B7D92C-D55C-4BC6-B102-453292D61CA5&Options=ID%7cText%7c&Search=567

    It requires a study of crash locations within 6 months of the crash. Obviously police reports would have to be part of this study.

    finally Please include in your inquiry the hit and run crash at 40th and 9th (end of 2008) , where a garbage hauling truck hit a woman never stopped , was found later on in the Bronx by the cops and … LET GO …… So much for hit and run …
    WE never got to the bottom of this one… with conflicting reports …

  • Thanks for the link and the info, Christine. Do you know if the report described in the law, that was supposed to be issued in August 2009, was ever issued? I don’t remember seeing it.

  • Not yet but I understand DOT is close to publishing it .see rudin journal of transportation

  • Yeah, let me echo archie’s comment above — noble work, and keep dogging them.

  • Dave Pagl

    Regarding any civil suits, Solange Raulston’s family is interested in exploring whether there is a basis for a wrongful death suit relating to her accident/death at Nassau and McGuiness last December. We do have an initial police report with little information there, and we are now looking for eyewitnesses to the accident or anyone who was present at the scene of the accident in its immediate aftermath. Please leave your contact info in email to davepagl@gmail.com. Thanks for caring. Dave P.

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