The Empire Center for Public Policy on Monday notched a victory in state court Monday after a judge found the names of retired New York City police officers who receive pensions are public records that must be released.
The fiscal watchdog group, which has compiled databases of publicly available pension and salary information of government workers over the years, had filed a series of Freedom of Information Law requests with the Police Pension Fund to request the names and benefit amounts.
But the FOIL requests had been denied, with the fund claiming that releasing the names would expose retired cops to threats.
The over the last five years, the group has won lawsuits that upheld the public nature of pension data, including New York City firefighters.
Judge Melissa Crane in her ruling determined the arguments for disclosing the police pension data are “compelling.”
“Concerned taxpayers have played a crucial role in preventing pension abuse. In 2016, the press published several stories about former NYPD personnel abuse of disability pensions relying on the information the public provided,” she found. “Therefore, retiree names are of significant interest to the general public. Public employees do not enjoy the same privacy rights as private sector employees.”
She added the disclosure could “lead to a higher level of accountability” and discourage the practice of “double dipping” — receiving a pension while also drawing a public salary.
“This decision affirms that the government is the public’s business and the public’s access to records should not be thwarted with baseless arguments for confidentiality,” said the Government Justice Center Executive Director Cam Macdonald, which represented the Empire Center in the case.
“The rationale for public disclosure clearly should apply to the entire police pension database, except for retired undercover officers whose names are appropriately redacted.”