Precinct commanders city-wide were recently instructed by HQ not to discuss neighborhood crime information with the press but instead to direct inquiring reporters to the press office (DCPI) at police headquarters to obtain precinct-based crime reports and other local data.
What appeared to be a restrictive new policy was first reported by the Brooklyn hyperlocal, The Nabe, a website supported by the CUNY Journalism School whose
founding dean, Stephen Shepard, immediately registered a protest with NYPD brass.
Dean Shepard was joined by the New York Press Club which sent a letter of protest to Commissioner Kelly.
In a conversation with NYPC president, Larry Seary, Deputy Commissioner For Public Information, John McCarthy, said reporters are still able to obtain precinct data from local "houses."
A caveat is that reporters must first inform DCPI, presumeably by phone or email, that they will be visiting. DCPI will then inform the precinct that a journalist is on the way.
Mr. McCarthy said the forgoing procedure - notifying DCPI prior to a precinct visit - is not new and has been NYPD policy for "decades." He said that the recent communique to commanders was intended
to be a reiteration of existing policy, not a change. However, that contention left unanswered the question of why the reiteration stipulated that reporters must deal only with DCPI.
In his report on the initial development, released almost contemporaneously with the story by The Nabe, veteran police reporter Murray Weiss of DNAinfo.com New York,
outlined some of the problems journalists have
encountered when seeking information from or otherwise dealing with DCPI.
The deputy commissioner told the Press Club that there will be no delay in access to the precinct data once a reporter contacts his office. NYPD reiterated the policy, he said, because of
concern about lax procedures at the local level. DCPI, he said, wanted to assure that no confidential personal information is inadvertently released, such as abused childrens' identities,
names of arrested minors, victims under 16, names of witnesses and other such privacy breaches.
While the protests from Dean Shepard and the New York Press Club have resulted in an explanation from NYPD, the Press Club would like to
hear from working journalists about how the "reiterated" policy is affecting their access and workflow.