On Aug. 26, 2020, I asked Saratoga Springs for public police records pertinent to the still-pending civil lawsuit against the city brought by the mother of Darryl Mount, a Black man who died from injuries suffered in an August 2013 chase by several officers.
I’m still waiting.
The task of responding to requests for records regarding Saratoga Springs police has been delegated by City Hall to the very law firm defending the city and its police officers – including those in the Darryl Mount case.
Saratoga Springs and other municipalities across the state have been swamped by requests through New York’s Freedom of Information Law since last summer, when the state at long last made certain police disciplinary records accessible to the public. With that in mind, I’ve offered to prioritize my admittedly large request and to review records piecemeal, yet haven’t received a single document.
I don’t doubt that the city’s FOIL officer needs help responding to requests. Still, it feels like a conflict for the private attorney hired to defend the city and police to also be in charge of reviewing and redacting records that may reflect negatively on the defendants.
Here’s my FOIL request timeline:
Aug. 26: I submitted to the city attorney a request for numerous public records pertaining to officers involved in the Darryl Mount case and complaints about excessive force.
Sept. 15: I emailed the attorney noting that the Aug. 26 request had not been acknowledged.
Sept. 16: The city apologized for this oversight, promising a response granting or denying my request within 20 business days. (I believe this was an honest mistake, but I was back at the end of line even though two weeks had elapsed since my request.)
Oct. 23: About 25 business days later, I informed the city that I still had no response.
The city later that day advised me that the documents “have been forwarded to counsel for the Saratoga Springs Police Department for review and possible redaction” and that I “may reasonably expect a response by Nov. 30.”
Nov. 30: Nothing.
Dec. 4: The city emailed that “due to the scope” of my requests the city needs “some additional time to respond” and that I should expect a response in “approximately 45 business days.”
By my count, that brings us to Feb. 9, 2021 – more than five months from my initial request.
Other cities and police departments are denying or delaying requests for records that should be public (with some redactions). I’ve been assured my request is in the process of being granted. I could consider the repeated extensions tantamount to a denial that I could officially appeal. But I am inclined to wait optimistically for Feb. 9.
My expectation is that these records will shed light on police behavior and procedures that could address at least some of the unanswered questions about the death of Darryl Mount. That, I believe, is worth waiting for. But for how long?