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Projects, Units & Initiatives

The Cop Accountability Project

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 officers accountable for human rights violations. Responding to decades of secrecy regarding officer misconduct and the NYPD’s systemic failure to hold officers to account, the project launched a database that tracks police misconduct in New York City aso that public defense, civil rights, and human rights lawyers can better advocate for transparency and accountability. The database has become a national model for defenders collecting police misconduct materials and has been featured in the American Bar Association, The Intercept, WNYC, and presented at the National Legal Aid and Defender Association, the National Association for Civilian Oversight of Law Enforcement, the Quattrone Center, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, as well as human rights venues like the NYU Bernstein Center, among many more.

CAP has also curated a database for the public, available at CAPstat.nyc which allows users to browse thousands of federal civil rights lawsuits filed against NYPD officers, in addition to other public information. CAPstat has been featured in The New York Times, New York Law Journal, New York Daily News, El Diario and more.

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. Our staff also published a ground-breaking report in 2020 analyzing patterns of police enforcement of social distancing complaints, demonstrating that enforcement patterns following patterns of racially biased policing rather than patterns of complaints regarding violations of social distancing regulations.

In the wake of the George Floyd protests, CAP launched a clinic to support New Yorkers that 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. The project matches clients with a volunteer lawyer to guide them through the overall legal landscape.

For assistance, please send your name, pronouns, and reliable contact information to NYCProtests@legal-aid.org or call 212-298-3303.