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Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Civil liberties group sues Albany over Taser policy

September 1, 2010

ALBANY - The New York Civil Liberties Union is suing the city police department over its refusal to release a complete copy of its policy for the use of electric stun weapons known as Tasers.

In refusing to release a copy without some information blacked out of the policy, Albany joined Saratoga Springs as the only two of 10 departments polled statewide to do so, the civil liberties group asserts in its suit, filed Wednesday in state Supreme Court in Albany.

NYCLU already sued Saratoga Springs over its refusal and eventually and received an unredacted copy of that city's policy, said Melanie Trimble, director of the NYCLU's Capital Region Chapter.

According to the suit, state Supreme Court Justice Thomas D. Nolan Jr. ruled there was "no basis" for Saratoga Springs' refusal to release its entire policy.

"The public has every right to complete information on the Police Department's use of Tasers," Trimble said in a statement announcing the lawsuit.

The group said it made its Freedom of Information Law request in January, which was seven months before Police Chief Steven Krokoff was sworn into his current job. At the time, Krokoff was serving as deputy chief and the department's interim leader.

In partially denying the group's request, the city cited an exemption that allows it to withhold information that might threaten the safety of officers or the public, the lawsuit says.

One of the few exemptions to state FOI law allows records to be withheld if their release "could endanger the life or safety of any person."

Releasing the full policy, the city contended in its denial, "would lead to the perpetrators attempting to evade or thwart a police officers (sic) ability to perform his/her duties."

NYCLU, however, contends the city "did not provide any factual or evidentiary basis for its conclusion."

Assistant Corporation Counsel Jeffery Jamison acknowledged that the city had partially denied the group's request but said he had not yet been served with a copy of the lawsuit.

"We have tried to be as open as we can with every FOIL request, and we have tried to release everything single document that is possible," Jamison said, "but at certain times there are exceptions that apply."

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