Months After Violent NYPD Responses To Protests Resulted In Hundreds Of Complaints, Only Two Officers Are Facing Serious Discipline
from the NYPD-can't-even-be-bothered-to-appear-to-care dept
The repeal of a law that shielded New York police misconduct records from public view has prompted a delayed deluge of records — one temporarily slowed by the expected litigation from police and police reps who wished to put this transparency genie back in the bottle.
The records confirmed what has always been suspected: the NYPD doesn’t like to discipline its officers and the Civilian Complaint Review Board is pretty much powerless when it comes to police accountability. ProPublica — one of the early publishers of NYPD misconduct records — has obtained more information from the CCRB. This batch of info — aided by the CCRB’s own publication of misconduct data — shows it hasn’t done much to handle the influx of complaints following the NYPD’s response to a number of Black Lives Matter protests.
Nine months after racial justice protests swept across New York City and videos showed police punching, kicking and trapping demonstrators, the city agency responsible for investigating abuses has revealed the number of officers who have so far faced serious disciplinary charges.
The Civilian Complaint Review Board released the figures on Tuesday after ProPublica reported that the CCRB was declining to disclose how much progress it had made on protest cases. The new numbers show about 60% of the agency’s 297 protest-related cases are still open.
A lot of this is not the CCRB’s fault. It takes a long time to complete investigations — an average of eight months according to CCRB data. Things could be expedited, but it would take cooperation from the NYPD. That’s something the CCRB has never experienced.
Despite its legal obligations, the NYPD has been withholding significant evidence and undermining investigations of alleged abuse. It has stopped sharing a wide variety of paper records and has been redacting the names of potential witnesses from others without explanation. For two months this year, it allowed officers to refuse to be interviewed by CCRB investigators. And, critically, it often doesn’t produce body-worn camera footage.
An internal CCRB memo obtained by ProPublica enumerates roughly a dozen kinds of records withheld or redacted across the board: warrants, arrests records, documents listing who was in station house cells — key for finding witnesses — even officer injury reports.
Body camera footage is essential to substantiating claims. The NYPD knows this. That’s why it does everything it can to prevent it from being obtained by its civilian oversight. As ProPublica pointed out in that report, substantiation of allegations more than doubles when investigators have access to recordings.
That’s what’s keeping the CCRB from being effective. And that’s how you end up with only two substantiated claims and a majority of investigations still open months after the alleged events.
But what can the CCRB do? Not much, apparently. It has no power to compel production. And even if it could compel production of recordings and paperwork, the NYPD could still thwart it by doing what it already does: deliberately avoid creating paper trails.
The CCRB’s statement Wednesday also said investigators have had difficulty identifying officers “due to the Police Department not keeping track of where officers were deployed and due to officers wearing protective gear with incorrect shield numbers.”
It’s intentional internal mismanagement. It’s a protective shield disguised as incompetence. If the city cared, it could do something about this. But the NYPD runs the city, not vice versa. And it has done so for years with the full support of mayors who have pretty much idolized “New York’s Finest,” elevating them above the accountability they owe to the people they serve.