Ramarley Graham’s Mother and Supporting Organizations Release New Legal Filings Against NYPD
NYC Council Progressive Caucus files amicus brief urging end to NYPD concealment of information on Graham’s killing
The NYPD continues to conceal records on Graham’s killing more than five years after his death, while still not scheduling trials against officers charged in killing, Morris & McLoughlin
New York, NY – The mother of Ramarley Graham, elected officials, Communities United for Police Reform, and other supportive organizations announced a new legal filing against the New York City Police Department (NYPD) for its continued efforts to conceal critical information about Graham’s 2012 killing by officers. The Progressive Caucus of the New York City Council also filed an amicus brief in support of Graham’s family and the other petitioners.
In the new legal filing, the parties who brought the initial lawsuit argue that the NYPD’s broad refusal to comply with its Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request from September 2016 is legally inadequate and unjustified. The NYPD’s claim, that turning over records would prevent them from conducting fair and impartial disciplinary trials, is not only baseless but incongruent with its lack of action. Sergeant Scott Morris and Officer John Mcloughlin, two officers charged by the NYPD years ago in Graham’s killing, have yet to have trials scheduled by the police department. The filing calls on the Supreme Court of the State of New York to order that the NYPD provide the requested records.
“There are no words to describe how my family feels about the fact that it has been more than five years since my son Ramarley was murdered by the NYPD, and we still can't get basic answers and the City still hasn't held officers accountable,” said Constance Malcolm, the mother of Ramarley Graham.
“Sergeant Scott Morris and Officer John McLoughlin should already have been fired, but 5 1/2 years later, we're still waiting for the NYPD to schedule their disciplinary trials. It’s even more of a slap in the face that they still have not scheduled their trials, while they also use these trials as an excuse to deny me basic information about the murder of my son. Mayor de Blasio talks about being progressive but seems more interested in protecting the cops who murdered my son and others like Eric Garner, instead of holding officers accountable when they take the lives of innocent Black boys and men. This is how Black and Latino families, whose loved ones were killed by police, like ours, are treated in New York under de Blasio.
Gideon Oliver, the civil rights attorney who filed the initial FOIL request and lawsuit on behalf of the family and supporters stated: “NYPD has refused to schedule Morris and McLoughlin’s disciplinary trials for five years. Among other things, we are asking the Court to reject NYPD's unsupported claims that releasing records about the shooting from 2012 would interfere with their trials by revealing NYPD’s prosecutorial strategy or inciting public opinion against them. The NYPD already revealed its prosecutorial strategies, during Haste’s trial, where Morris and McLoughlin testified. And, if the NYPD ever schedules them and if they ever take place, Morris and McLoughlin’s trials would take place before an NYPD administrative judge, unlikely to be influenced by public opinion.”
The family and organizations' filing can be accessed here: http://bit.ly/2x7s5KL
The Progressive Caucus’ amicus brief urged the Court “to reject the NYPD’s various attempts in this case to radically expand Freedom of Information Law exemptions.” It argues that the public is entitled to the information requested by the FOIL request, rejecting the overly broad rationales being used by the NYPD to deny the release of information. In arguing the information’s importance to the Progressive Caucus and public, the amicus brief contends that the public interest in police transparency is a “preliminary step to asserting the community’s power to check police misconduct and abuse.” The brief also argues that [t]he “NYPD’s adherence to principles of nondisclosure and secrecy erodes the public’s trust in the NYPD critical to public safety.”
The Progressive Caucus brief goes on to state that: “The Progressive Caucus is concerned that the refusal to disclose critical documents stymies elected officials’ ability to encourage concrete changes to disciplinary systems, training and tactical protocols, and other policies…that may perpetuate police misconduct and abuses.”
The amicus brief filing by the Progressive Caucus can be accessed here: http://bit.ly/2wTe4kq
Council Member Antonio Reynoso, Co-Chair of the Progressive Caucus stated: “Ramarley Graham’s family deserves to understand the circumstances of Ramarley’s death. The family has been seeking justice and transparency for the last five years, since Ramarley was killed by NYPD Officer Haste in 2012. That’s why the Progressive Caucus has filed a legal amicus brief supporting the family in their continual challenges to the NYPD’s denial of information. The Progressive Caucus is committed to issues of police accountability and transparency, and building stronger relationships between the police and the communities that they serve. We hope the court considers the precedent that will be set by this case for the future of ongoing efforts to rebuild public trust in the NYPD.”
Council Member Jumaane D. Williams said: “For an administration that has repeated commitments to better transparency and accountability around the better policing conversation, it remains aggravating to hear these commitments, while simultaneously keeping information from Ramarley Graham’s family regarding the circumstances around his murder. It's time that the words are backed by real-time action.”
Graham’s family, Communities United for Police Reform and the Justice Committee originally submitted a FOIL request in September 2016 for police records and communication related to his killing and its aftermath. They were forced to utilize the state’s open records law because the family had been seeking information from the city on his killing for over five years without adequate response. Ramarley Graham’s family sent repeated letters and requests to the de Blasio administration (here, here and here) and even hand-delivered them to City Hall, but received no responses from the mayor or police commissioner.
The NYPD has been refusing to fully comply with the official request that can provide the family and public with essential information on Ramarley’s killing and NYPD misconduct, which led to Graham’s family and supporters filing a lawsuit in April to force the NYPD’s compliance with state law.
“For more than 5 years, Ramarley Graham’s family and his community have waited for justice,” said Carmen Perez, Co-Founder of Justice League NYC and Co-Chair of The Women's March. “For more than 5 years, the City of New York and the NYPD have denied them justice. Justice League NYC joins Communities United for Police Reform in demanding that the NYPD release all documents related to the Ramarley’s killing per their FOIL requests, and immediately schedule hearings for Officer John McLoughlin and Sergeant Scott Morris for their direct roles in Ramarley’s death. Justice delayed is justice denied.”
In 2012, unarmed 18-year-old Ramarley Graham was shot and killed in front of his grandmother and 6-year-old brother by NYPD Officer Richard Haste. Haste and several other NYPD officers, including Sergeant Scott Morris and Officer John McLoughlin, busted into the family's Bronx home without a warrant, killed Ramarley and engaged in misconduct and abuses of his family and other civilians. Yet after more than five years, all of the officers responsible for killing Ramarley, abusing his family and related misconduct have not been identified or held accountable by the de Blasio administration’s NYPD. Haste was allowed to resign from the NYPD in March, after accruing tens of thousands of dollars in increased earnings since killing Ramarley – he received over $30,000 more in 2016 than he did in the year he shot Ramarley (received over $94,000 in pay in 2016).
There were multiple officers involved in the unlawful entry to the family’s home, threatening, assaulting and mistreating Ramarley’s family members after the killing, unlawfully leaking information unauthorized for public release, and disseminating false information about the incident. Officer John McLoughlin kicked down the door to the family’s apartment, leading to Haste shooting and killing Ramarley. Sergeant Scott Morris was the ranking officer on the scene, and allowed the unlawful entry that precipitated Ramarley’s killing. There was extensive misconduct by other NYPD employees in the aftermath of Graham’s killing, but the city has refused to release any information about the extent of activities and officers involved.
About Communities United for Police Reform
Communities United for Police Reform (CPR) is an unprecedented campaign to end discriminatory policing practices in New York, and to build a lasting movement that promotes public safety and policing practices based on cooperation and respect– not discriminatory targeting and harassment.
CPR brings together a movement of community members, lawyers, researchers and activists to work for change. The partners in this campaign come from all 5 boroughs, from all walks of life and represent many of those unfairly targeted the most by the NYPD. CPR is fighting for reforms that will promote community safety while ensuring that the NYPD protects and serves all New Yorkers.