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During his 20+ years working the cops beat for Newsday, the New York Post and the AP, Leonard Levitt dug up some of the best police reporting in the business. But when he started his own muckraking web site, NYPDConfidential.com, and exposed the underbelly of the NYPD, the police department suddenly denied him a press pass – a vital tool for any reporter that enabled Levitt to cross police and fire barriers to report news at emergency and crime scenes.

During his 20+ years working the cops beat for Newsday, the New York Post and the AP, Leonard Levitt dug up some of the best police reporting in the business. But when he started his own muckraking web site, NYPDConfidential.com, and exposed the underbelly of the NYPD, the police department suddenly denied him a press pass – a vital tool for any reporter that enabled Levitt to cross police and fire barriers to report news at emergency and crime scenes.

Today, the New York Civil Liberties Union (the NY chapter of the ACLU) sued the NYPD to protect Levitt’s right to report freely and fairly on one of the largest and most important police departments in the country.

From the NYCLU press release:

Levitt, a respected reporter, columnist and editor who has worked for Newsday, the New York Post and the Associated Press, is the author of NYPDConfidential.com, a web site that investigates the NYPD. His reporting provides "an insider’s view" of the department, and includes stories on corruption, brutality and inefficiency. Through his site, Levitt has reported on the NYPD’s failure to pay its bills on time, the arrest of an NYPD narcotics officer who was involved in drug-smuggling, and police brutality.    

"I think we’re going to find that this was strictly retaliatory," Levitt said. "The police department has issued press passes to all kinds of people who they shouldn’t have according to their policy, but not to those who are in need and deserving of a pass."

In May 2007, following the NYPD’s sudden revocation of Levitt’s press pass, the NYCLU served the NYPD with a formal request under the state’s Freedom of Information Law to disclose relevant information about the Department’s policy to issue or deny press passes. It also requested information specifically related to the decision to revoke Levitt’s pass. Over the past nine months, the NYPD has ignored the NYCLU’s request, violated statutory deadlines for responding to such requests, and denied an administrative appeal asking for a timely response.  

"We want to ensure that the NYPD is applying its press pass policy uniformly and fairly," said NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman. "New Yorkers are entitled to know if the NYPD is stifling investigate reporting aimed at uncovering inappropriate, illicit or illegal behavior within the Department."

For more information on Levitt’s case and to see a video of him talking about his case, visit the NYCLU site.

Originally posted to NYCLU Jen on Wed Feb 20, 2008 at 07:27 AM PST.

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