NYPD Raises Middle Finger To Public, Oversight In Inspector General's Year-End Roundup
from the NO-ONE-polices-the-police dept
The NYPD’s Office of the Inspector General has just released its year-end report summarizing its 2015 oversight work. We covered its use of force report late last year — a report which found the NYPD completely uninterested in policing itself. The report noted the NYPD has “historically… failed to discipline officers who use force without justification.”
This report points to the OIG’s investigation of chokehold use by NYPD officers — the tactic that ended Eric Garner’s life during his arrest. As is the case with most other excessive uses of force, this tactic — which has been forbidden by department policy — tended to be greeted with shrugs from PD supervisors and a middle finger raised to the general public.
CCRB [Civilian Complaint Review Board[ generally believed that severe penalties were warranted in chokehold cases. CCRB recommended Administrative Charges, the most serious level of discipline within NYPD, in nine of the ten cases where it found an NYPD officer had used a chokehold.
The CCRB is another oft-ignored element of the NYPD’s oversight. It investigates complaints and recommends discipline. The CCRB is also part of the problem, as the earlier report on use of force points out:
The total number of substantiated force allegations represents approximately 2.0% of the more than 10,000 allegations of force received by CCRB from 2010 to 2014.
But in the ten cases the OIG examined, the CCRB recommended severe penalties. This, of course, resulted in next to nothing happening to officers who deployed the banned form of restraint.
NYPD, by contrast, believed that lesser penalties were warranted in substantiated chokehold cases. NYPD’s Department Advocate’s Office (DAO) is the NYPD unit that prosecutes NYPD disciplinary matters and, until April 11, 2013, was responsible for prosecuting all substantiated use-of-force cases that resulted in Administrative Charges. In those cases where CCRB substantiated chokeholds, recommended Administrative Charges, and DAO became involved, none of the substantiated cases ever went to trial before a NYPD Trial Commissioner. Instead, DAO departed from CCRB’s recommendation every time. Rather than pursue the more serious Administrative Charges, DAO recommended lesser penalties or no discipline whatsoever.
The NYPD won’t fix its chokehold problem. End of sentence. Those at the very top are no different than those in NYPD middle management.
The Police Commissioner has the authority in all cases to make a final determination about discipline. In those substantiated chokehold cases presented to the Police Commissioner, he rejected CCRB’s disciplinary recommendation, imposing a less severe penalty than that recommended by CCRB or deciding that no discipline was warranted at all.
The NYPD does not want to discipline its officers for force-related misconduct. It just doesn’t. It has rejected the OIG’s recommendations on two critical matters related to force-related complaints.
The OIG has recommended that a separate penalty be attached to each count in multiple-count disciplinary actions. The NYPD, on the other hand, feels this is too punitive. Apparently, every use of force incident needs to be weighed against all the small moments during an incident where the officer didn’t apply excessive force.
NYPD reports that it examines the totality of the actions of each officer in a given situation to determine the appropriate penalty.
The NYPD has also rejected the recommendation that it perform better tracking of use of force incidents.
According to NYPD, the factors that result in a police officer’s use of force, and the determination of the question of whether that force was proportional or excessive, are impacted by several variables. NYPD states that attempting to measure the Department-wide impact of excessive force penalties on new excessive force incidents would not be a useful endeavor.
Depends on what you mean by “useful.” NYPD brass apparently feel tracking use of force incidents, their frequency and compiling data on repeat offenders is a waste of resources. The OIG says it is “concerned” with the department’s lack of interest in transparency and accountability, but unfortunately, all it can do is “continue to review and report on systemic use of force issues.”
Also of note is the fact that most of the NYPD’s responses to OIG recommendations are that the department “agrees in principle.” Otto von Bismarck had something to say about that line of thinking:
When a man says he approves of something in principle, it means he hasn’t the slightest intention of putting it into practice.
The NYPD won’t change because no one who could propel change has any interest in doing it. NYPD officials aren’t even willing to make incremental improvements. They resist the OIG’s recommendations and undercut the CCRB decisions habitually. Some of this can be chalked up to a long, mutually-beneficial relationship with the city’s previous mayor, who found the NYPD to be the embodiment of all that is right and good. There’s been a regime change — both within the mayor’s office and the police commissioner’s — but the same problems have carried over. And they won’t change if no one’s willing to hold those at the top responsible for everything they’ve permitted and fostered under their supervision.