Interviewed by Fatima Koli '17, Associate Director, Empirical Reasoning Center
Cynthia Conti-Cook is a civil rights lawyer and researcher working at the Ford Foundation as a Technology Fellow since 2019, where she researches the impact of technology on criminal, immigration, and reproductive justice for historically oppressed communities. Prior to Ford, Cynthia was a staff attorney at the NYC Legal Aid Society's Special Litigation Unit, where Cynthia led class action and individual civil rights federal and state actions against New York City and state police, corrections, and parole systems. She also pioneered a police misconduct database "CAPstat" for New York City police officers, earning her the "Legal Rebel" title from the American Bar Association. Cynthia served as a 2018-19 Data & Society fellow, working on a variety of topics related to policing, privacy, surveillance and the intersection of technology and social justice. She has published several law review articles and trained hundreds of attorneys across the country.
More from Cynthia:
When I came to the Legal Aid Society in NYC after working as a private civil rights attorney at a small law firm in Brooklyn for several years, I wanted to create a police misconduct database. My 7 years of representing people brutalized by police gave me a clear perspective on patterns of police misconduct that occurred across certain precincts, sometimes across certain squads, and even citywide patterns of misconduct related to certain policies. A major hurdle to documenting police misconduct in New York State was the 50a law that was a remnant of the Police Officers' Bill of Rights campaigns in the 1970s. Alongside directly impacted New Yorkers and politically strategic organizers, I started to challenge 50a in a series of lawsuits, pitched and sourced several investigative journalism pieces about police misconduct, and fought for 50a repeal in the streets, in court, and in academic journals. In June 2020, following historic protests of police violence, 50a was finally repealed. Months later police unions failed at challenging it in federal court. I'm sharing the law review articles and presentations that I wrote pushing for more transparency of police misconduct information, challenging police department's claims to privacy, and articulating the harms caused by police secrecy.
A New Balance 2019
Open Data Policing 2017
Defending the Public 2016
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