Projects, Units & Initiatives
The Cop Accountability Project (CAP) of the Criminal Defense Practice’s Law Reform and Special Litigation Unit empowers organizations and communities across New York City to hold police accountable for human rights violations. CAP focuses on increasing transparency and strengthening New York’s systems of accountability for police misconduct.
CAP maintains the most comprehensive public database on law enforcement misconduct records in New York City to date, named “Law Enforcement Look Up” or “LELU.” The database includes more than 240,000 records involving misconduct by New York City Police Department and New York City Department of Correction officers. LELU exists to empower public defenders, civil rights lawyers and everyday New Yorkers with information to investigate and pursue accountability for police misconduct. Our staff works relentlessly to maintain and improve this database. Since its public launch in October 2022, CAP has added hundreds of records to the database.
Click here to begin searching LELU.
Beyond the database, CAP works to improve police accountability and transparency by advocating against problematic policing policies and fighting policy secrecy laws. Our staff was instrumental in achieving the historic repeal in 2020 of the Police Secrecy Law, Civil Rights Law § 50-a, which had long shielded information about official misconduct by police officers, as well as the NYPD’s long-standing failure to take such misconduct seriously. We also published a ground-breaking report in 2020 analyzing patterns of police enforcement of social distancing complaints, demonstrating that enforcement patterns followed patterns of racially biased policing rather than patterns of complaints regarding violations of social distancing regulations. Our staff also helped shed light on how former NYPD Commissioner Sewell flouted CCRB discipline recommendations hundreds of times during her brief tenure.
In the wake of the George Floyd protests, CAP launched a clinic to connect New Yorkers who experienced police misconduct and brutality with hands-on legal advice and assistance with filing a Civilian Complaint Review Board complaint, a Notice of Claim to sue the city, and more.
CAP also engages in advocacy and impact litigation to force law enforcement agencies to change its abusive practices. Following the 2020 protests, our staff also filed a lawsuit against the NYPD and the City for the brutal policing tactics experienced by protesters in Payne v. de Blasio et al. On September 5, 2023, The Legal Aid Society, along with the New York Civil Liberties Union and the State Attorney General’s Office, announced a first-in-the-nation agreement with NYPD in Payne v. de Blasio et al. that significantly overhauls the NYPD’s policing of protests, preventing unnecessary and aggressive deployments of officers to protests and protecting the public from false arrests and excessive use of force.
This past year, our staff also successfully settled a class action, Holden et al. v. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, against the Port Authority Police Department for its discriminatory practice of using plainclothes officers to arrest gay, bisexual, and gender nonconforming people, and falsely accuse them of public lewdness and exposure in the Port Authority Bus Terminal’s men’s restrooms.
Last Updated: 7 September 2023
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