NYC Gun Permit Applicants Claim Racial Bias Against NYPD Over License Denials
New York Firearms Law and Second Amendment firm Tilem & Associates, PC filed three lawsuits, two at the state supreme court and one at the federal court in Manhattan, claiming the New York Police Department’s Gun Division uses capricious considerations that disproportionately deny gun permits to black applicants.
Back in April, attorney Peter Howard Tilem, wrote on the New York Criminal Attorney Blog that in February of 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.”
Tilem noted the Detective testified at the hearing that anything brought to the attention of the NYPD License Division was established as an “incident.” Moreover, The NYPD “did not necessarily consider the quality of the incidents but rather the sheer number and that included dismissed arrests,” Tilem wrote.
Tilem’s firm looked at statistics from the NY State Division of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS) and found that between 2010 and 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.”
Because of the numbers and the testimony of the NYPD detective, the firm concluded: “There is evidence of racial bias in the way the NYPD issues and revokes firearms licenses.”
Tilem attorneys say that their offices have been flooded with similar claims by black gun permit applicants in New York City. Tilem associate attorney Robert Schechter told The Daily Caller Monday night the firm currently represents two black males, John Allen and the Devon Thomas. Both applied for New York City gun permits and each was rejected. Neither had felony records but each had records of dismissed arrests.
“Devon Thomas is an African-American male security guard who was falsely arrested two times and has been awarded money judgments from the city based on those arrests. Those dismissed arrested had been used to deny him. Ultimately, he had to hire a lawyer and he got his license,”Schechter told The Daily Caller.
Schecter continued, “Because of that arbitrary decision, and they granted one of his licenses then denied the other. Then they moved to revoke his license, and on the application, they cited these dismissed arrests again. So, they keep referencing these dismissed arrests in both his denial and revocation.”
He added, “These dismissed arrests happen to African Americans at a significantly higher rate than Caucasian-Americans.”
Tilem’s firm is also representing John Allen. According to Schechter, Allen had several arrests and the only conviction resulted in a misdemeanor for a suspended license Schecter told TheDC.
“Four [arrests] were dismissed. Three resulted in violations. One resulted in a youthful offender adjudication. He also then received certificates of relief from civil disabilities which are papers from the court that create a presumption of rehabilitation,” Schechter said.
He added, “The Court said the NYPD never really considered any presumption of rehabilitation and never investigated the facts and circumstances and basically denied him again citing his arrests.”
“The US Supreme Court has stated that firearms possession is a Constitutional right. Currently, at least 41 States have “shall issue” concealed carry laws, in which objective standards exist for the issuance of gun licenses,” Tilem said in a statement of both men’s cases. “New York is one of only 9 states left that issues licenses based upon the whim of the licensing officer. This discretion, we believe, has resulted in a history of cronyism and bribery and now appears to be fraught with racial bias.”
Oral arguments are expected to begin this October at the State Supreme Court. Additionally, the federal court judge is expected to decide on the city’s motion to dismiss the case.
Thomas’s cases are right now at the New York State Supreme Court and Federal court level, while Allen’s is pending only at the State Supreme Court.
According to Schechter, the law firm is also handling claims from black applicants who were denied gun permits based off of minor traffic violations. At the moment, those cases are being appealed with the NYPD administratively.
“One was denied [a permit] for having allegedly two TAB violations [Transit Adjudication Bureau], but we filed the administrative appeal in efforts to resolve this matter without having to go to court. Another was denied for not providing information during an interview despite never being interviewed and a dismissed arrest.”
Schechter said, “Currently, the NYPD is telling people, ‘You think of everything you’ve ever done everywhere you bring this all to us and if you missed something it doesn’t even matter. We’re going to consider that failed to disclose and we’re going to deny you.”
The flood of gun permit denials from the NYPD has happened two years after the gun licensing division was rocked by a bribery scandal that ensnared several officers from the office who were recently sentenced for their participation in the scheme. The new commanding officer, Michael Baretto, according to a former NYPD employee, ordered his subordinates to deny permits based on minor traffic violations that could go back decades into an applicant’s driving history.
“Anything bad is gonna to hurt especially if it’s a drug arrest or a DWI arrest within the last five years. So any DWI and/ or drug arrests any domestic incidents.” The former NYPD employee explained, “The new commanding officer brought up other reasons to deny you and that you owe child support. If you’ve gottten excessive summonses, he’s calling that not of good moral character. He just thinks of s***. He just dreams of stuff. You know? But that’s what he’s calling it–‘not of good moral character.'”