MuckRock is again reporting on a mysteriously missing document — one that was previously acknowledged to exist but come public records request time, simply can’t be found.
A couple of months ago, it was the FBI claiming that a Drone Impact Assessment it had previously “released” in response to an FOIA request (read: redacted in full) suddenly couldn’t be located. Now, it’s the gold standard of Freedom of Information obfuscation — the New York Police Department — claiming the same thing.
In December 2013, the NYPD ordered its 77 precinct commanders to route reporters’ requests for crime reports through the agency’s press office, rather than release these documents directly. So where’s the order itself?
More than fifteen months after MuckRock requested it, the NYPD has a rather familiar answer: we couldn’t find it.
It’s not as though the document never existed. The NYPD’s decision to deny journalists access to its crime blotters — something it had allowed for decades previously — was heavily criticized by a variety of outlets (including this one). The document’s existence was even acknowledged by the NYPD’s Deputy Commissioner of Public Information, who claimed it was nothing more than a reiteration of previously-existing policy. (If so, then it had never been enforced until the distribution of this suddenly-nonexistent memo.)
But now, more than a year after it was first requested, the NYPD’s FOIL response team claims the document everyone was talking about several months ago just isn’t there.
In regards to the document(s) you requested, this unit is unable to locate documents responsive to your request based on the information provided.
In addition to the documents MuckRock didn’t receive, the NYPD is expected to not answer MuckRock’s follow-up question sometime within the next 12-18 months.
MuckRock has emailed the NYPD’s DCPI [Deputy Commissioner of Public Information] to request clarification as to how this order was so widely disseminated throughout the department without being put in writing.
Perhaps the last words of the memo were, “BURN AFTER READING?”
And so, the NYPD continues on in its quest to leave no FOIL request unthwarted. I’d say it has its work cut out for it, but it’s already been touted as “worse than the CIA, NSA and FBI” in the Information Doesn’t Want to Be Free category. Between its generally frosty exterior and its no-oversight-needed in-house document classification, the NYPD continues to put other reluctant participants in open records laws to shame.