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New York Firearms Law Firm Announces Legal Action Against the NYPD Alleging Racial Bias in Pistol License Decisions

New York Firearms Law and Second Amendment Firm, Tilem & Associates has filed three legal actions, two in New York State Supreme Court and one in Federal Court in Manhattan alleging that the New York City Police Department Licensing Division uses factors in licensing decisions that disproportionately deny African-Americans gun licenses.  In one outrageous case, the NYPD admitted to using false arrests, two arrests for which the NYPD was sued and ultimately settled, as part of the  basis for revoking pistol licenses from an African-American.

The NYPD Licensing division is the division within the NYPD that is responsible for issuing and renewing pistol licenses in the City of New York, and has the authority to limit, suspend or revoke a handgun license subject to review by the New York State Supreme Court.

In February 2017, during a hearing at the NYPD License Division offices before an NYPD hearing officer, a Detective assigned to the investigation section of the License Division testified under oath about using dismissed arrests as a basis to recommend revocation of an African-American license holder’s license.  In fact, and to the apparent surprise of the hearing officer, the Detective testified that anything reported to the NYPD License Division was considered an “incident” and that the Police Department did not necessarily consider the quality of the incidents but rather the sheer number and that included dismissed arrests.  The Detective also admitted to considering dismissed arrests for which New York City settled 2 false arrests claims in his decision to revoke.

After receiving a large number of inquiries from African-Americans who either were denied gun licenses or had pistol licenses revoked based upon what appeared to be inappropriate grounds such as dismissed arrests, White Plains based law firm, Tilem & Associates decided to investigate.  As part of the investigation lawyers from Tilem & Associates contacted the New York State Division of Criminal Services (DCJS) to confirm our suspicion that African-Americans have arrests dismissed at a higher rate than Caucasians and therefore any policy that considered dismissed arrests would naturally have a disproportionate effect on African-Americans.

Reviewing statistics that were provided by the New York State DCJS we determined that from 2010-2016 African-Americans were approximately twice as likely to get arrested for something that was ultimately dismissed or for something that the District Attorney’s Office refused to prosecute.  In 2010 the total number of African-Americans who had their arrests dismissed or declined to prosecute was more than 48,000 or 22% of total dispositions versus just over 19,000 or 11% for Whites.  In 2016 the numbers of African-Americans who had their arrests dismissed or declined to prosecute was more than 42,000 or 23% versus almost 16,000 or 11% for Whites.

As a result of these statistics and the testimony from the NYPD Detective there is evidence of racial bias in the way the NYPD issues and revokes firearms licenses.  Based upon that evidence and the large number of African-Americans who contact this office after being denied a handgun license or after having them revoked this Office has filed two Article 78 actions in State Supreme Court which seek to annul the NYPD determinations and has also filed a Federal Civil Rights action under 42 USC 1983 seeking monetary and other damages against the NYPD.  In addition, this firm is seeking others who believe that they have been the victims of discrimination by the NYPD License Division.