Legal Issues

by Tim Cushing


Filed Under:
abuse, ccrb, nypd, oversight, police, taser



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.


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  • identicon
    MurrayHill5, 29 Dec 2016 @ 4:44pm

    yawn

    Yawn.

    So the NYPD is corrupt and the NYC Civilian Review Board can't fix it. What a surprise.

    NYPD corruption has only been a problem for 160 years.

    Power corrupts. Power always corrupts cops. Same overall situation across U.S. Nothing will change until courts start applying our laws to cops... the same way laws apply to everyone else.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 29 Dec 2016 @ 5:34pm

    Employ the 2nd First

    Regardless the reason, the problem is not that "a government entity that has the power to kill civilians." One of the most fundamental aspects of governments is "the power to kill civilians" - that aspect distinguishes no government ever. The problems arise when the exercise of that "power" has no material consequences. We, the People, have the same right with respect to representatives of government entities.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      I completely agree, 29 Dec 2016 @ 6:28pm

      Re: Employ the 2nd First

      We should respect the 2nd amendment: the one that allows states to have armed militias not paid for by the federal government... Ohh you mean the new interpretation of the 2nd amendment since the mid 2000s SCOTUS case which was the first to cite that 'individuals' have the right to firearms....

      Nah.. I'm good one that one.... And to prove it... I have a simple thought experiment...

      Picture in your head the 'average' American. Close your eyes for a minute and picture this person, how smart they are, what they do for a living, etc.

      Now that you are back... Can you HONESTLY say that you think the idea of arming 160 million Americans stupider than the one you just envisioned is a good idea? Nope... Didn't think so.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 29 Dec 2016 @ 6:48pm

        Re: Re: Employ the 2nd First

        "...you mean the new interpretation..."

        No, I mean the original interpretation, allowing unregulated ownership and carry, as written by the rifle, pistol, sword, and knife totin' founders, who only barely tolerated the inclusion of the Second Amendment, since they thought it a poor idea to give the federal government (or any other silly descendants) the mistaken impression that prohibiting or even regulating the ownership of arms was allowed.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 29 Dec 2016 @ 7:12pm

        Don't let the stupid have guns

        > Can you HONESTLY say that you think the idea of arming 160 million Americans stupider than the one you just envisioned is a good idea?

        Let's turn your original statement around. How comfortable are YOU with the idea of arming 160 million smarter-than-average Americans, every one of whom will think he knows better than the "average person" - in fact, better than YOU - what to do with a gun?

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Harry D (profile), 29 Dec 2016 @ 5:46pm

    Source and response

    Who are the quotes from? And was comment sought from the CCRB?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 29 Dec 2016 @ 6:35pm

      Re: Source and response

      Don't see the source myself, but as far as contacting the CCRB, why waste the time? Unless the article is way off they're likely too busy brow nosing the NYPD, and would just give some pathetic excuse as to how the language was change to be more 'professional' and less 'inflammatory'.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 29 Dec 2016 @ 6:39pm

    Less fangs than a gummi-bear

    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.

    Well, it's a good thing the CCRB is in place to make the recommendations, can you imagine how boring the DAO's day would be if they didn't have a toothless recommendation to completely ignore?

    An 'independent' review board makes absolutely no difference if they have no power to actually do anything, and if the article is any indication they've been nicely tamed, such that they've become little more than a PR branch of the NYPD, providing the appearance of oversight while carefully avoiding anything that might 'insult' or anger the department.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 29 Dec 2016 @ 9:01pm

    Toothless Gutless Wonders

    I hear the NYPD prefers for CCRB members to be toothless. Makes for better blow jobs.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Groaker (profile), 30 Dec 2016 @ 2:02pm

    Why don't people simply accept that we live in a police state?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 30 Dec 2016 @ 6:53pm

      "That would never happen to me, I'M a law abiding citizen..."

      Because we don't of course, the only people on the 'wrong' end of the law are criminals, otherwise they never would have been accused and/or had their stuff taken in the first place.

      Sure the system has a few occasional 'hiccups', what system doesn't, but those are minor and if someone is really innocent it's trivially easy for them to sort it out; if they have problems it's their fault, not the system's. And besides, so long as the criminals are caught what's a few 'mistakes' in the process? Better by far to accidentally scoop up 'too many' people than miss the guilty parties after all.

      **

      Between flat out ignorance that it's happening at all, and an all too common 'that would never happen to me' mindset you'd be surprised and/or horrified as to what people can accept, the lies they'll tell themselves to maintain 'stability'.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Doran Zeigler, 3 Jan 2017 @ 9:19am

      Re: CCRB

      I have been saying this same thing for years. The AmeriKKKan public is like the proverbial frog in hot water. There is little at this point that can wake them up and make them care.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 31 Dec 2016 @ 3:09am

    How are all you virgins doing tonight?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 31 Dec 2016 @ 6:01am

      Re:

      Fine, thank you. I'm not the one with a policeman's tramp stamp tattooed up my rectum. Is it difficult sitting down for you? Or do you habitually kneel as an occupational hazard?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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