Oversight Board Spares NYPD's Feelings By Softening Language In Taser Complaint Report
from the say-a-prayer-for-the-people-in-power dept
The NYPD’s estranged relationship with its oversight continues. The Civilian Complaint Review Board — put into place after it became apparent the NYPD wasn’t interested in policing itself — has noticed the department is vocally supportive of better policing, but has no interest in actually making any changes to the way it disciplines its officers.
The NYPD has yet to see a civilian complaint it can’t make disappear and has almost always recommended a lesser punishment for misconduct than the Board has recommended. In controversial “chokehold” cases, the Board found the NYPD was completely uninterested in doing anything about officers’ use of a tactic it has outlawed.
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.
Despite being shown no respect by the NYPD, the CCRB has decided to protect the badged-and-armed delicate flower of the department by softening the language in its Taser use report before publication.
In the spring, an oversight agency for the New York Police Department circulated a draft report on the use of Taser stun guns. The report highlighted “troubling” findings and issued stern recommendations: The police should create an annual report on the use of Tasers and prohibit their use on handcuffed suspects.
But the latter recommendation was removed from the final version of the report, quietly released in October by the agency, the Civilian Complaint Review Board, with no formal announcement. The other was removed from the executive summary and relegated to the report’s final page.
The agency also removed language highlighting what police reform advocates and civil liberties groups later said was the board’s central finding: In most Taser encounters reviewed, officers used the stun guns on people who were unarmed.
What the CCRB found wasn’t encouraging. The NYPD already has a troubled history of Taser misuse. Not much is made of it because Taser deployment in the force is severely limited. But the NYPD’s ability to make even a small number of civilian complaints vanish into the ether remains unchanged. The New York Times highlights the report’s findings, which are disturbing and have remained unaltered.
Over the period studied in the report, from 2014 through 2015, the board’s investigators conducted full investigations of 51 of the 153 complaints filed and substantiated only three of them.
The other 102 fell by the wayside because the complainants failed to cooperate with the investigation. Perhaps some of them felt the outcome would be no different than the 94% that did make it all the way through the process. Perhaps some had outstanding warrants, unpaid tickets, a general disinterest in interacting with law enforcement, or whatever. But with only six percent of complaints being substantiated, the outcome of the NYPD’s internal efforts are par for the course: lots of complaints, almost zero repercussions.
But just as disheartening is the fact that the CCRB edited its report to ensure the NYPD wouldn’t even feel the weight of PRINTED WORDS.
The alterations to the report run throughout and appear to play down the findings — which remain unchanged — and remove language that could be considered charged or critical of the Police Department.
This is an organization with an inordinate amount of power — both over the people it serves as well as the politicians that ostensibly control its budget and activities. Specific edits were made to turn the report into something as proactively exonerative as statements made by the NYPD itself in the wake of excessive force allegations. Police brass say things like “the officer’s gun discharged.” The CCRB — post-editing — says things like this:
[T]he draft report found that “there is also evidence” that Tasers were being used in response to unruly or obstinate behavior by suspects. That phrase was changed in the final version to say that “there is concern.”
Also excised was the Board’s “troubling” finding that Taser deployment often occurred when suspects were already in custody. The stat — 30% of the time — remains. The word “troubling” is nowhere to be found. Another sentence was removed completely, apparently out of concern the NYPD might react badly to it.
“[A] review of several of the police custody complaints supports the perception that the Tasing may have occurred unnecessarily.”
The NYPD needs to be subjected to strong language that draws attention unavoidably to its use of excessive force. This is the sort of thing the NYPD finds to be “appropriate” Taser use.
Mr. Sells said in an interview that during the discovery phase of the lawsuit, he learned that two separate officers used Tasers on Mr. Paul, striking him a total of 13 times — six by one officer; seven by the other — over the course of 41 seconds.
Anthony Paul is dead. He was 29 years old when he died in NYPD custody. The NYPD brushed off accusations of excessive force with the above “appropriate” statement, as well as the excuse that the Tasers failed to deliver even more electricity to the eventual corpse of Mr. Paul.
“…not all of the “activations” resulted “in actual electrical circuit charge transmissions.”
A government entity that has the power to kill civilians who do not immediately subject themselves to an arrest is apparently too weak to handle direct criticism of its actions. The Board has wiped any implications from its findings, leaving the stats to speak for themselves. The facts aren’t pretty, but the NYPD has no problem ignoring hard numbers and incontrovertible facts. But it must be protected from any insinuations that its use of force is sometimes too much… or occasionally unjustifiable.