As we first reported last week, a change in policy at the New York Police Department now requires journalists to call the department's central media office before requesting incident reports at individual precincts, upending a longstanding policy. Past practice had allowed each precinct to report details of crimes and incidents in their own precincts, with the central media office handling information related to major crimes only.
In a meeting with New York Press Club President Larry Seary, the NYPD's Deputy Commissioner of Public Information John McCarthy insisted the requirement to call in advance was not a change in policy, and a recent letter to precinct commanders was to remind them of existing policy, saying he wanted to assure that no confidential personal information is inadvertently released, such as the identities of crime victims, minors or witnesses. However, in practice, reporters have for decades obtained reports at the precinct level without advance notice.
After that meeting, Seary indicated he would consider the matter closed if the policy did not impede journalists. However, media outlets report the policy is being implemented haphazardly through the city, with many precincts pointing reporters back to the central media office.
RTDNA has sent a letter to incoming Police Commissioner William Bratton, who takes office on January 1.
December 19, 2013
Mr. William J. Bratton
Incoming Police Commissioner
New York City Police Department
New York City, NY
Dear Mr. Bratton:
On behalf of the membership of the Radio Television Digital News Association, the nation’s largest professional association of electronic journalists and, in particular, the news media serving the New York City market, we ask you to rescind the recent changes in the methods used by the New York Police Department to provide information to reporters covering police incidents throughout the city.
While outgoing Police Commissioner Ray Kelly maintains the changes do not constitute revisions in official policy, the implementation of these changes have clearly had a negative result in the media’s ability to rapidly and completely gather information for reporting to their audiences.
As you no doubt are aware, past practices have enabled the media to report on incidents through information collected at the precinct level. This system has worked well for many years. Now, Precinct Captains and others are required to involve the NYPD central Public Information office on all such requests. The result has been confusion at the precinct level and a number of precinct officials who are either unaware of the procedures now required to be followed or are unwilling in other ways to assist reporters in collecting this information.
RTDNA joins the New York Press Club and other media organizations in renewing our collective request for your administration to seriously question why this change was implemented by the outgoing Police Commissioner and to rescind the policy, thus allowing the media to again do its job in a timely and complete manner.
On behalf of our members, we appreciate your prompt consideration of this request soon after you take office on January 1st.
Radio Television Digital News Association
Cc: Mayor-elect William de Blasio