The NYPD acted grossly negligent by destroying records and internal emails, including those belonging to former Commissioner Raymond Kelly, that were being sought in a high-profile lawsuit over an alleged quota system for summonses, a federal judge ruled.
The NYPD failed to make a real effort to retain the records despite knowing about the lawsuit for years, U.S. District Judge Robert W. Sweet noted in a Tuesday ruling. But he said they didn't intentionally lie.
"The NYPD cannot credibly argue that, despite setting guidelines for document destruction and providing an industrial shredding truck for that purpose, it did not know or intend that documents would be destroyed," Sweet ruled.
To remedy the missing documents, Sweet ruled that should the 2010 class-action lawsuit go to trial, jurors will be instructed that just because emails or other evidence don't exist in the case doesn't mean a summons quota policy didn't exist also.
Kelly has denied deleting or ordering the deletion of emails related to the case and has said he didn't use email to manage the department. His spokeswoman didn't immediately return a message Wednesday seeking comment.
A spokesman for the city Law Department recognized Sweet's suggestion that the police had "systemic failures in preserving electronic and other communications," but noted the judge's finding that neither Kelly nor another top commander ever perjured themselves about the emails.
Lawyers suing the city had sought senior police officials' emails containing words such as "activity" and "performance." But no emails from Kelly, two former transit chiefs and two other senior police officials were produced, Sweet wrote.
Other records were also destroyed, Sweet found.
A lieutenant who attended monthly CompStat meetings, where commanders are grilled on crime statistics and arrest activity in their district, deleted his handwritten notes from those sessions, Sweet wrote.