2016 June 17

Lost NYC Police Spying Files Found in Queens


Over 500 boxes of New York City police political spying files, long thought to be lost, were discovered in a city warehouse in Queens, New York, it was reported on this day. The files are regarded as the largest trove of spying files from the 1950s and 1960s to become public, according to a story in the New York Times.

The existence of such files had been a matter of controversy in the long period of litigation against the New York City Police Department (NYPD) that ended in the 1970s. “It’s the whole mother lode,” said one civil rights attorney. The files cover the activities of what was originally known as the Red Squad and by the 1970s was known as the Special Services Division. Today it is known as the Intelligence Division. According to an index contained in the files, the documents include spying activities against the Black Panther Party, the Nation of Islam, and the Young Lords, a militant Hispanic group.

According to the New York Times story, one file was on a Catholic lay teacher who was involved in labor negotiations with the Catholic Archdiocese. Another index card referred to someone “seated at Table 8 in Albert Ballroom, Americana Hotel,” at a dinner sponsored by the Emergency Civil Liberties Committee on December 15, 1962. (ECLC was founded on October 8, 1951).

Learn more about police spying scandals in Memphis (September 15,1976) and Denver (March 13, 2002)

Learn more about the history of police “red squads:” Frank J. Donner, Protectors of Privilege: Red Squads and Police Repression in Urban America (1990)

Learn more about state and local police spying from the ACLU here.

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