Leaked Documents Expose NYPD's Long-Running Lack Of Officer Discipline
from the having-had-it-stuck-to-him,-The-Man-retreats-uneasily dept
Buzzfeed has obtained files the NYPD never wanted the public to see. This isn’t the result of a protracted public records battle, but rather the work of an anonymous whistleblower. Presumably, those further up the chain of command are already familiar with the department’s disinterest in holding officers accountable, so there’s no whistleblowing outlet there. Also, presumably, the Civilian Complaint Review Board’s hands are tied and it cannot hand out disciplinary reports for officers never formally disciplined. So, leak it is. And what a leak it is.
Secret files obtained by BuzzFeed News reveal that from 2011 to 2015 at least 319 New York Police Department employees who committed offenses serious enough to merit firing were allowed to keep their jobs.
Many of the officers lied, cheated, stole, or assaulted New York City residents. At least fifty employees lied on official reports, under oath, or during an internal affairs investigation. Thirty-eight were found guilty by a police tribunal of excessive force, getting into a fight, or firing their gun unnecessarily. Fifty-seven were guilty of driving under the influence. Seventy-one were guilty of ticket-fixing. One officer, Jarrett Dill, threatened to kill someone. Another, Roberson Tunis, sexually harassed and inappropriately touched a fellow officer. Some were guilty of lesser offenses, like mouthing off to a supervisor.
At least two dozen of these employees worked in schools. Andrew Bailey was found guilty of touching a female student on the thigh and kissing her on the cheek while she was sitting in his car. In a school parking lot, while he was supposed to be on duty, Lester Robinson kissed a woman, removed his shirt, and began to remove his pants. And Juan Garcia, while off duty, illegally sold prescription medication to an undercover officer.
In every instance, the police commissioner, who has final authority in disciplinary decisions, assigned these officers to “dismissal probation,” a penalty with few practical consequences. The officer continues to do their job at their usual salary. They may get less overtime and won’t be promoted during that period, which usually lasts a year. When the year is over, so is the probation.
There’s an NYPD Snowden out there somewhere, exposing the dirty non-secret that is the continued lack of accountability within the largest police force in the nation. New York’s Finest, the NYPD calls itself, ignoring the fact that it does almost nothing to ensure it’s only staffed with the finest human beings.
Sure, 319 out of 40,000 officers is only a small percentage, but there’s nothing in Buzzfeed’s blockbuster article that indicates what it’s seen is all that’s available. What it has seen is only a small part of a larger whole. These are the probation files, which don’t include officers dismissed. Add that to the mix and the total rises to over 1,400 officers caught breaking laws and policies — many of which were allowed to resign while charges were still pending, keeping their records clean and their pension plans intact.
This exposé of kid glove treatment for repeat offenders contains this PR-friendly statement from the deputy commissioner of the office charged with handling internal disciplinary issues. Kevin Richardson, speaking on behalf of the job he’s failing to do, made assertions clearly contradicted by the documents in Buzzfeed’s possession.
“The department is not interested in terminating officers that don’t need to be terminated. We’re interested in keeping employees and making our employees obey the rules and do the right thing,” he told BuzzFeed News. “But where there are failings that we realize this person should be separated from the department, this police commissioner and the prior police commissioner have shown a willingness to do that.”
From what’s being reported here, “separating” someone from the department is a last resort. And when it is done, it’s often done in a way that allows bad officers to move on to other police departments or sit at home collecting a pension for a job
well poorly done. Richardson is in denial, but at least he’s a bit more reasonable than the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association.
Al O’Leary, a spokesperson for the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, the largest police union representing NYPD officers, had a different message: “We’re not going to talk to you about anything negative as far as any of our officers.”
Well, if you won’t, others will. Burying your head in the filthy sand doesn’t make the problem go away. And it certainly doesn’t put an entity willing to stand up for any officer, no matter how egregious their misconduct, in a better light.
Case in point: Officer Raymond Marrero. Marrero is still employed by the NYPD despite being named in four serious complaints in his first six years and racking up $900,000 of lawsuit settlements. This colorful story is just one of Marrero’s many abusive escapades.
[I]n early 2009, a former police department volunteer named Louis Deluca confronted a man who, Deluca found out, had groped his brother’s 17-year-old girlfriend. The man took off with his friends, just as Marrero was pulling up. “I was telling him, ‘There’s some guys that groped a family member of mine,’” Deluca said. “‘They’re right around the corner.’”
Marrero and his partner told Deluca to shut up, Deluca said. Incredulous, Deluca called Marrero a cunt. The officers pushed him to the ground and arrested him, according to a lawsuit Deluca later filed.
Back at the precinct, as Deluca was being taken out of the car, Marrero struck him with his police baton, opening up a gash on the top of his head. Another officer said there was so much blood, they had to clean it up with a mop. It took 12 staples at the hospital to close the wound.
In a deposition, Deluca said Marrero told him “You can’t disrespect us in the street like that.” Deluca received a $398,000 settlement, of which Marrero was ordered to pay $4,000.
Marrero pled guilty to several internal charges during this six-year period, including deploying excessive force and lying to department investigators. Despite this, Commissioner Ray Kelly felt Marrero still added value to the force. He was placed on probation and lost 45 vacation days, but was never terminated or asked to resign. An outside commission on police corruption reviewed these files and suggested Marrero be fired, as he “lacked the temperament necessary to be a police officer.” This suggestion was ignored.
There’s nothing about local laws or NYPD policies that encourage any sort of positive change. The NYPD says local laws allow it to withhold disciplinary records from the public. Disciplinary trials for officers are open to the public… so to speak. They’re held without prior announcement of schedules or locations. They’re presided over by a police official appointed by the NYPD Commissioner, rather than a neutral adjudicator. And if a top cop decides an accused cop should be terminated, the Commissioner can overturn the ruling. (And even if the Commissioner allowed the discipline to stay in place, there’s a good chance the PBA would get the ruling overturned.)
A closed disciplinary does no favors for the public. Unsurprisingly, it does no favors for police officers, either. Bad cops become worse cops as no one’s willing to engage in serious deterrence and the system itself is often used to retaliate against good cops who blow the whistle on bad behavior or sue the department for discriminatory practices. Ultimately, no one’s accountable to anyone, despite everyone involved being a public servant.
This leak will likely provoke some changes within the department, but with zero oversight, the positive changes likely won’t last. My money’s on an internal investigation into the leak being the largest expenditure of time and effort as a result of this exposé.