NYPD Restores Thousands of Missing Records but Removes Case Numbers From Its Discipline Database

The New York Police Department restored more than 2,000 previously missing discipline records to its public database of uniformed officers last month, weeks after a ProPublica report revealed data reliability issues that dogged the site for almost two years.

The department also revamped the site, including removing case numbers, which will make it more difficult for the public to identify or track missing cases. When the revamped site was published two weeks ago, the number of cases dropped again.

The system, known as the Officer Profile Database, was launched in 2021 after the New York state legislature repealed a law that, for decades, kept officer discipline records exempt from public disclosure. But a ProPublica analysis of more than 1,000 daily snapshots of the database found that, for almost two years, officers’ discipline records frequently vanished from the NYPD’s site for days — sometimes weeks — at a time, obscuring the misconduct histories for officers at all ranks, including its most senior uniformed officer. At that time, about half of cases that had at one point been in the system were missing.

Since late April, the number of cases in the database has climbed steadily, suggesting the department may have resolved whatever issue previously caused cases to disappear from the system. An updated analysis shows the restoration of cases began around May 5, more than a week after ProPublica contacted the department for comment and four days before the news organization published its initial story.

After ProPublica Story Reveals NYPD Database as Unreliable, Missing Discipline Records Reappear

More than 2,000 previously missing discipline records have been restored to a New York Police Department database, just weeks after a ProPublica story revealed pervasive issues with the system’s reliability.


Credit:
Chart: Sergio Hernandez. Source: ProPublica analysis of archived NYPD data.

Police officials did not respond to ProPublica’s repeated inquiries seeking to confirm why cases had been removed or restored. But the recent streak of steady or rising case numbers appears to be the longest such run in more than a year. That streak ended with the site update June 18; since then, the number of cases has again fallen by about 200 from its all-time high.

Representatives for RockDaisy, the software vendor that developed the original system, also did not respond to multiple requests for comment. Last month’s software update appears to have removed all references to the company from the site’s source code, and the firm’s involvement with the latest version of the site is unclear.

Lupe Aguirre, a senior staff attorney at the New York Civil Liberties Union, said she remains concerned that the database has been so inconsistent and, more broadly, that the department’s website discloses only a subset of all misconduct and discipline cases.

“The fluctuation in the data is still concerning and reflects a continued pattern of secrecy in how the department handles disciplinary matters,” Aguirre wrote in an email. “New Yorkers deserve full transparency into the NYPD’s internal accountability systems, especially given the department’s culture of impunity.”

Because the department’s database is designed to show discipline only for active officers, some cases relating to former officers might have been removed from the data over time. Yet that would have explained only a fraction of the missing cases. For most of the past year, at least a third of cases that had previously appeared in the database were missing.

Those cases involved officers at all levels, including Chief of Department Jeffrey Maddrey, the force’s highest-ranking uniformed officer, and at least six deputy chiefs with prestigious assignments whose offenses ranged from discourteous behavior to drinking on duty and wrongful searches, frisks and uses of force.

Police reform advocates, including Aguirre, previously argued that the database issues uncovered by ProPublica underscored the need for agencies to publish data through the city’s open-data program, as required by a 2012 law. A recent schedule of upcoming releases shows the NYPD’s officer profile data was supposed to be added by the end of 2023, but that still has not happened.

The NYPD’s site and broader discipline process have come under scrutiny in recent days. City & State reported Friday that an administrative page on the site failed to require authentication, potentially allowing bad actors to tamper with the database’s records. And that same day, a ProPublica investigation, co-published with The New York Times, revealed how top police brass have secretly buried dozens of discipline cases involving NYPD officers. Their actions ensured that those cases would never appear in the online database.