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Here’s What We Learned From Thousands of Secret NYPD Disciplinary Files

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Today BuzzFeed News is making public one of the New York Police Department’s most fiercely guarded secrets: a database of disciplinary findings for about 1,800 NYPD employees who faced departmental misconduct charges between 2011 and 2015.

This information has been closely guarded for years, and completely off-limits since 2016, when the NYPD removed them from public view, citing a controversial state law that shields police officers’ misconduct. As a result, New Yorkers who are charged with a crime have no simple way to find out if the officer who arrested them has a misconduct record that might affect their credibility with a jury. Officers who have faced disciplinary charges have limited information about how their punishment compares with those of other officers in similar situations. And taxpayers as a whole have no way to assess how their police department is policing its own.

Many other large departments, in states such as Illinois and Florida, routinely make this information available. “The public has a right to know what our public officials are doing, and this is especially true with our police officers, who have the power to shoot to kill, use force, and deprive people of their liberty through stop or arrest,” said Samuel Walker, a national policing expert.

BuzzFeed News determined that there is an overwhelming public interest in these documents’ release, and so we are publishing them in a format that is designed to be searchable by criminal defendants, police officers, scholars, and the public.

The files were provided by a source who requested anonymity. Their legitimacy was verified through more than 100 calls to NYPD employees, visits to officers’ homes, interviews with prosecutors and defense lawyers, and a review of thousands of pages of court records.

These documents formed the basis of our investigation, published last month, which identified at least 319 NYPD employees who had committed offenses serious enough to merit firing but who were allowed to keep their jobs. Following that investigation, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio vowed to push the state legislature for reforms to Civil Rights Law Section 50-a, the law that cloaks disciplinary records in secrecy. The department, which is led by Commissioner James P. O’Neill, said it would begin releasing reports about disciplinary actions, with the offending officers' names removed. But last week a judge blocked that step, pending a hearing in June, in response to an emergency request filed by the city’s largest police union.

This database covers a wide range of offenses, from showing up late to work, to drunk driving, to holding a handcuffed prisoner down while another officer stomped on the person’s head. For those found guilty, the penalties range from a verbal reprimand, to the loss of vacation days, to removal from the force.

Using these documents, BuzzFeed News found that:

  • At least 250 employees faced accusations of using excessive force, threatening someone, getting into a fight, or firing their gun unnecessarily. Some faced only minor penalties. School safety agents Rufus Felder, Lydia Goodwin, and Timothy Wheeler, for example, each lost five vacation days after using excessive force against students. After striking someone on the head and threatening to kill two people, Detective Denise Rinaldi lost 20 vacation days.

  • NYPD rules say that, barring exceptional circumstances, officers who lie about a “material matter” must lose their jobs. But of the more than 100 employees in these files who were accused of lying on official reports, under oath, or during an internal affairs investigation, only a handful were fired, while others were docked anywhere from a few days to a month of vacation time. Officer Alexis Valdez, for example, lost 30 vacation days when he was found to have given false testimony to a grand jury.

  • Of at least two dozen officers accused of conducting illegal searches, three-quarters suffered only a verbal reprimand, the loss of a few vacation days, or a similar penalty. Officer Erlene Wiltshire lost five vacation days after the department found she conducted a strip search without her supervisor’s approval or a reasonable suspicion that the individual had concealed evidence under her clothes.

  • The department found at least 16 employees falsified records to collect overtime. Sgt. Ruben Duque, for example, submitted false overtime claims 93 times. He was put on probation, forfeited 30 vacation days, and ordered to pay back $6,000. Duque remains on the force today and collected over $50,000 in overtime pay in 2017, according to the latest New York City payroll data.

These documents cover a period during which the department was led by first Ray Kelly and then Bill Bratton, but they are not a complete record of disciplinary cases during these years. There may be additional cases, and some of these case descriptions may have been amended by the department at a later date. But these documents provide the broadest and deepest look yet at how the department has held its employees accountable.

Many officers told BuzzFeed News that the disciplinary system is unfair. Some said it lets guilty officers off the hook. Others said it punishes people for reporting misconduct or just for getting on their supervisors’ bad sides. For example, one officer told a supervisor that as a single mother, she needed a couple of days to arrange for child care before being assigned to a new post. She was charged with “failing to comply with an order” and was suspended for 122 days and forced to give up more than a month of pay.

"If 10 cops did the same exact thing that was bad, the outcome is different every time. If you’ve complained, forget about it,” Diane Davis, a former internal affairs investigator who later sued the department for racial discrimination, previously told BuzzFeed News. These records offer a chance for officers to determine what common punishments are and how any penalties they may have received stack up.

BuzzFeed News tried to reach out for comment to each NYPD employee named in this story by phone, letter, as well as requests to the department or their unions. Most did not respond. Lydia Goodwin, the former school safety officer who was charged with unnecessary force against a student, told BuzzFeed News that she was “unfairly accused” and the charges against her were “completely false.”

The largest police union, the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, threatened BuzzFeed News with legal action if the records were made public, warning BuzzFeed News that the release of this information would create “the perfect tool for unstable individuals with a grudge against cops to identify and go after police officers and their families.”

In response to concerns from the union and the department, BuzzFeed News partially redacted the tax ID number, a unique identifier for each officer that is not related to social security numbers or private tax information.

Peter Donald, an NYPD spokesperson, told BuzzFeed News, “The overwhelming majority of New York City cops come to work every day to do good, fight crime, and help people, making this City the safest it has been since the 1950s. For the few who commit violations, the NYPD’s disciplinary process is more rigorous today than ever before.”

Kevin Richardson, NYPD’s deputy commissioner of the Department Advocate’s Office, which determines which officers to charge and prosecute at the NYPD’s internal disciplinary trials, previously told BuzzFeed News that the department takes the obligation to police its own seriously. The disciplinary process is "a fairer process than it was." The department declined to offer any examples of penalties that have changed, or any data that would support his claims.

Are you an officer or NYPD employee who has been through the NYPD disciplinary system? Have you ever encountered one of these officers? If so, we’d love to hear about your experience. To learn how to reach us securely, go to tips.buzzfeed.com. You can also email us at tips@buzzfeed.com. ●

Kendall Taggart is an investigative data reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York. Her secure PGP fingerprint is 4148 BEAD 45CF E7D3 84CC F602 ABF3 469D E2F7 D8A0

Contact Kendall Taggart at kendall.taggart@buzzfeed.com.

Michael Hayes is a senior reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.

Contact Mike Hayes at mike@buzzfeed.com.

Got a confidential tip? Submit it here.

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satadru
7 days ago
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Bravo.
New York, NY
reconbot
3 days ago
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New York City
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LED Trampoline #3DThursday #3DPrinting

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These NeoPixels makes you wanna jump! Learn how to upgrade a cheap trampoline with interactive NeoPixel LEDs. Use Adafruits ItsyBitsy and a vibration sensor to make a trampoline light up when you jump on it.

Get the full source files, code, and step by step instruction on Adafruit Learn.
https://learn.adafruit.com/led-trampoline/overview

Adafruit ItsyBitsy M0
https://www.adafruit.com/product/3727

NeoPixel LED Strip – 3 Meter
https://www.adafruit.com/product/1376?length=3

Visit the Adafruit shop online – http://www.adafruit.com
Adafruit on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/adafruit


649-1
Every Thursday is #3dthursday here at Adafruit! The DIY 3D printing community has passion and dedication for making solid objects from digital models. Recently, we have noticed electronics projects integrated with 3D printed enclosures, brackets, and sculptures, so each Thursday we celebrate and highlight these bold pioneers!

Have you considered building a 3D project around an Arduino or other microcontroller? How about printing a bracket to mount your Raspberry Pi to the back of your HD monitor? And don’t forget the countless LED projects that are possible when you are modeling your projects in 3D!

The Adafruit Learning System has dozens of great tools to get you well on your way to creating incredible works of engineering, interactive art, and design with your 3D printer! If you’ve made a cool project that combines 3D printing and electronics, be sure to let us know, and we’ll feature it here!

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samuel
14 days ago
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What a great idea and a nice implementation.
The Haight in San Francisco
reconbot
11 days ago
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New York City
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Facial recognition AIs have a hard time with dark skin

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For her Gender Shades project, MIT researcher Joy Buolamwini fed over 1000 faces of different genders and skin tones into three AI-powered facial recognition systems from Microsoft, IBM, and Face++ to see how well they could recognize different kinds of faces.

The systems all performed well overall, but recognized male faces more readily than female faces and performed better on lighter skinned subjects than darker skinned subjects. For instance, 93.6% of gender misclassification errors by Microsoft’s system were of darker skinned people.

Gender Shades

Her message near the end of the video is worth heeding:

We have entered the age of automation overconfident yet underprepared. If we fail to make ethical and inclusive artificial intelligence, we risk losing gains made in civil rights and gender equity under the guise of machine neutrality.

Tags: artificial intelligence   gender   Joy Buolamwini   racism   science   video
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reconbot
29 days ago
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New York City
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Are voting-machine modems truly divorced from the Internet?

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(This article is written jointly with my colleague Kyle Jamieson, who specializes in wireless networks.)

[See also: The myth of the hacker-proof voting machine]

The ES&S model DS200 optical-scan voting machine has a cell-phone modem that it uses to upload election-night results from the voting machine to the “county central” canvassing computer.  We know it’s a bad idea to connect voting machines (and canvassing computers) to the Internet, because this allows their vulnerabilities to be exploited by hackers anywhere in the world.  (In fact, a judge in New Jersey ruled in 2009 that the state must not connect its voting machines and canvassing computers to the internet, for that very reason.)  So the question is, does DS200’s cell-phone modem, in effect, connect the voting machine to the Internet?

The vendor (ES&S) and the counties that bought the machine say, “no, it’s an analog modem.”  That’s not true; it appears to be a Multitech MTSMC-C2-N3-R.1 (Verizon C2 series modem), a fairly complex digital device.  But maybe what they mean is “it’s just a phone call, not really the Internet.”  So let’s review how phone calls work:

The voting machine calls the county-central computer using its cell-phone modem to the nearest tower; this connects through Verizon’s “Autonomous System” (AS), part of the packet-switched Internet, to a cell tower (or land-line station) near the canvassing computer.

Verizon attempts to control access to the routers internal to its own AS, using firewall rules on the border routers.  Each border router runs (probably) millions of lines of software; as such it is subject to bugs and vulnerabilities.  If a hacker finds one of these vulnerabilities, he can modify messages as they transit the AS network:

Do border routers actually have vulnerabilities in practice?  Of course they do!  US-CERT has highlighted this as an issue of importance.  It would surprising if the Russian mafia or the FBI were not equipped to exploit such vulnerabilities.

Even easier than hacking through router bugs is just setting up an imposter cell-phone “tower” near the voting machine; one commonly used brand of these, used by many police departments, is called “Stingray.”

I’ve labelled the hacker as “MitM” for “man-in-the-middle.”  He is well positioned to alter vote totals as they are uploaded.  Of course, he will do better to put his Stingray near the county-central canvassing computer, so he can hack all the voting machines in the county, not just one near his Stingray:

So, in summary: phone calls are not unconnected to the Internet; the hacking of phone calls is easy (police departments with Stingray devices do it all the time); and even between the cell-towers (or land-line stations), your calls go over parts of the Internet.  If your state laws, or a court with jurisdiction, say not to connect your voting machines to the Internet, then you probably shouldn’t use telephone modems either.

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reconbot
35 days ago
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New York City
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rosskarchner
62 days ago
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in Fairfax County VA, at least, what matters are the vote reports printed by the DS200’s at the end of the night. I don’t think the dial-out feature is used at all
DC-ish

Graphene Hair Dye

jwz
1 Comment and 2 Shares
Graphene Hair Dye:

  • Graphene hair dyes can be applied by spraying, brushing, and then drying.
  • Graphene hair dyes do not contain organic solvents or toxic molecular ingredients.
  • Durability of graphene dyes has reached the performance of permanent hair dyes.
  • Graphene dyes render hair enhanced antistatic and thermal dissipation properties.
I think someone made them put in this part to show how "green" they are. Probably a requirement of one of their grants:
The waste from graphene-coated hair can be recycled and repurposed for the creation of functional materials for other electronic or energy storage devices.

Graphene seems to be the nuclear fusion of materials science: it's always just ten years away from a total revolution of everything, this time for sure. It'll be easier to believe this is real when the kevlar-shitting spiders show up in products, or when nanotech makes dental cavities a thing of the past, this time for sure, or when I can charge my phone with a stinger tap.

Previously, previously, previously, previously, previously, previously, previously, previously, previously, previously.

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satadru
38 days ago
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I wonder how bad this stuff is if you inhale it? Mesothelioma bad?
New York, NY
steingart
38 days ago
yes if not properly mixed/dispersed or something is done to take it out of suspension and dry it.
satadru
36 days ago
Of course, counter-argument: https://newatlas.com/bionic-spider-silk-graphene/50908/
steingart
36 days ago
the fate of the spider is unclear
reconbot
37 days ago
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New York City
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Bus Lane Blocked, He Trained His Computer to Catch Scofflaws

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As the city has rolled out a total of 101 miles of specially designated bus lanes throughout the city, keeping them clear has emerged as a major challenge — what good is a bus-only pathway if it is blocked by an idling car, mail truck or even a police officer? The same goes for the 435 miles of bike lanes, painted green, that lace New York’s streetscape.

But no data exists that captures the scope of the problem in a quantifiable way. In its absence, biking and transit advocates have taken matters into their own hands, posting photos of offenders, including government and police vehicles, on social media as a way of countering the problem through public shaming.

The enforcement that does exist through the use of cameras is slim: Just 12 of the city’s 317 bus routes have cameras mounted on objects like streetlights that are similar to red-light cameras. Any plan to add more such cameras must be approved by the State Legislature.

Enforcement along bus lanes and bike paths is primarily the responsibility of the Police Department. Last year, police officers issued over 2,000 moving violations to vehicles traveling in bus lanes, about 24,000 parking tickets for blocking lanes and about 79,000 parking tickets for impeding bike lanes. Data does not exist for moving violations in bike lanes, which the police began tracking this year.

While those numbers seem impressive, advocates believe it barely touches the severity of the problem. “Based on anyone’s observation, bus lanes in New York are chronically blocked,’’ said Paul Steely White, the executive director of Transportation Alternatives, a bicycling advocacy organization.

Andy Byford, the president of New York City Transit, has met with the Police Department to encourage the agency to increase its vigilance. Blocking the bus lane, “is selfish, and it’s unacceptable,” Mr. Byford said in a recent interview aboard a bus that was forced to swerve in and out of a designated bus lane to avoid parked vans and idling taxis.

“I get that people have to deliver things, but the bus lane should be for the buses, period,” Mr. Byford said, adding that the transit agency is developing a plan to improve bus service that may include adding front-facing cameras mounted on buses, a measure that other cities have taken to strengthen enforcement of bus-only lanes.

Increasing the number of bus and bike lanes, but under-enforcing the rules to keep them unimpeded, “is one of these programs that ratchets up New Yorker sincere cynicism about government doing the right thing,” Mr. White said.

To gather actual data on how often blockages occur, Mr. Bell downloaded 10 days of publicly available video from a Department of Transportation camera mounted on a traffic light at the corner of 145th Street and St. Nicholas Avenue. Then he fed over 2,000 images of different types of vehicles, like trucks, buses and cars into his computer, training it to identify what exactly was blocking the way. In the case of bus stops, for example, Mr. Bell adjusted the computer program so that it was able to differentiate between buses that are supposed to be there from vehicles that were sitting there illegally.

His work took about three weeks. After the programming was complete, it took the computer about a day to crunch though the 10 days of footage. Mr. Bell’s program only measured the percentage of time the lanes on his test block were obstructed, but from that he said he was able to extrapolate actual numbers and calculated about 850 vehicles blocking the bike lane and over 1,000 in the bus lane. He has made the source code he developed to monitor the lanes free and publicly available online in the hope that it will be picked up and used to amplify the extent of the issue.

“I want to raise up New York City,” said Mr. Bell, who grew up on the Upper West Side, and attended Horace Mann School and Columbia University. “I never want to live anywhere else, but we have big problems. We have big problems especially when it comes to transportation. I am hoping that just seeing the data will help it be less ignorable.”

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reconbot
40 days ago
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New York City
satadru
42 days ago
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New York, NY
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JimB
40 days ago
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It is a problem everywhere
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