How An NYPD Officer Can Hit A Teen With His Car In Front Of Several Witnesses And Get Away With It

from the accountability-makes-officers-fear-for-their-job-safety dept

The NYPD has made internal discipline procedures a loop so closed that even its "independent" oversight -- the Civilian Complaint Review Board -- can't get in the door. The NYPD is effectively its own oversight. Decisions made by the CCRB can be overridden by the Police Commissioner. Even if the Commissioner agrees with the findings, recommended punishments can be departed from or ignored completely.

This story of police misconduct springs from this accountability void. ProPublica journalist Eric Umansky lives in New York City. Last year, while trick-or-treating with their daughter, his wife witnessed an unmarked police car hit a black teen. This happened in full view of several witnesses, including a person who worked at a business near the scene of the accident.

“Yeah, I saw a cop car hit a kid,” a waiter told me. He said he had a clear view of it: A handful of kids were running. One of them jumped out into the street and got hit by the police car, “probably going faster than he should have been.” He saw the boy roll over the hood and fall to the ground: “It sounded like when people hit concrete. It made a horrible sound.”

This eyewitness account agreed with what Umansky's wife had seen. But the end result wasn't a plainclothes officer being cited or disciplined for hitting a kid with his car. Instead, it was just a small part of a full-blown police rollout, where officers swarmed the street to run black teens and pre-teens up against the nearest wall.

Apparently, this is how an investigation unfolds. Officers were responding to a report that a group of teen boys had attacked another teen and stolen his cell phone. One of the officers responding was in plainclothes, driving an unmarked car against traffic. This was the officer that hit one of the running teens. A bunch of other teens who just happened to be on the street were picked up by cops and hauled to the station.

Umansky tried to follow up on this incident. The kids arrested by the officers were all released around one a.m. the next morning. They were given no paperwork on their arrests or the names of their arresting officers. Umansky was at the station the night it happened and couldn't get answers from any NYPD personnel.

He called the next day and talked to the NYPD's spokesman, who happens to be a former journalist. This was a dead end as well. The spokesman, Al Baker, simply said the arrested teens were being charged with resisting arrest. But this was the real kicker: the official word from the NYPD was that this was teen-on-car action, not the other way around.

I spoke to four witnesses, including my wife. All of them said they saw the same thing. When I called Baker back, he told me that my wife and the three others were mistaken. The car hadn’t hit the kid. The kid had hit the car.

As his statement put it: “One unknown male fled the scene and ran across the hood of a stationary police car.”

And that was it. The NYPD declared its own officer free of guilt or responsibility. There's still an investigation open, but there's little chance this will result in discipline of the plainclothes officer. In fact, there's little chance it will ever be resolved at all. At this point, the CCRB has 2,848 open investigations. And, as Umansky's article points out, moving these forward is almost impossible at this point.

Since the pandemic started, officers haven’t allowed CCRB to interview them remotely, meaning investigations have effectively stalled. The police unions had objected to doing it over video.

“We won’t do Zoom,” one union spokesman told The City. The CCRB is re-starting in-person interviews soon. It noted 1,109 investigations are awaiting police officer interviews.

Most CCRB investigations aren’t completed, and not just because of police intransigence. The roughly 100 investigators can only handle so many cases at once.

Thanks to the pandemic, the CCRB's budget has been cut, meaning there's even fewer investigators digging into thousands of cases containing allegations against officers who refuse to speak to them.

Even if the CCRB decides it would rather watch a recording of the alleged incident, rather than deal with a more uncooperative witnesses, it's not going to find anything there either. First off, the NYPD stonewalls CCRB request for camera footage. Then it finds some reason to deny the request. If it can't deny the request, the CCRB will receive the footage -- with any redactions the NYPD feels are necessary -- months after it has asked for it.

More immediate access to footage is possible, but it involves having to travel to the precinct to watch the footage while bound, gagged, and heavily-supervised.

CCRB investigators can now go to a room and watch footage. The agreement stipulates that CCRB staff can only take notes. They cannot record anything or use footage they see of abuse that happens to be different from the specific incident they’re investigating. They must sign a nondisclosure agreement.

With all of these unaccountaiblity practices in place, it comes as no surprise the NYPD would claim a person hit by a car driven by one of their officers was actually just an assault on an innocent police car by a person fleeing the forces of justice.

Hide this

Thank you for reading this Techdirt post. With so many things competing for everyone’s attention these days, we really appreciate you giving us your time. We work hard every day to put quality content out there for our community.

Techdirt is one of the few remaining truly independent media outlets. We do not have a giant corporation behind us, and we rely heavily on our community to support us, in an age when advertisers are increasingly uninterested in sponsoring small, independent sites — especially a site like ours that is unwilling to pull punches in its reporting and analysis.

While other websites have resorted to paywalls, registration requirements, and increasingly annoying/intrusive advertising, we have always kept Techdirt open and available to anyone. But in order to continue doing so, we need your support. We offer a variety of ways for our readers to support us, from direct donations to special subscriptions and cool merchandise — and every little bit helps. Thank you.

–The Techdirt Team

Filed Under: accountability, ccrb, nypd, police misconduct


Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread


  • icon
    crinisen (profile), 1 Jul 2020 @ 7:15pm

    They cannot record anything or use footage they see of abuse that happens to be different from the specific incident they’re investigating.

    Goodness, I wish that applied to the police too.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Jul 2020 @ 7:31pm

    "People saying refund the police are taking it too far..."

    If the police can't be held accountable by the current system, then the current system needs to be held accountable by ditching it for another one. Fire all the cops. Restructure the police so that they are accountable. Never let malevolent police unions get a foothold again.

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

    • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 1 Jul 2020 @ 10:27pm

      Re:

      Fire the cops! Never let malevolent police get a foothold in society again! We don't need them, we don't want them, make them GO! GONE! FOREVER! BANISHED!

      And mom and dad, too! And my older brother, and uncle Kevin! ALL OF 'EM!

      We can do it. We are the NEW GENERATION! NO ONE UNDERSTANDS US!

      FIRE THE COPS! FIRE MOM AND DAD! FIRE THE FIREMEN! FIRE THE POLITICIANS! FIRE THE LAWYERS! FIRE THE PROPAGANDISTS!

      BURN IT ALL DOWN (with full credit to Tiny Tim)

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 2 Jul 2020 @ 2:20pm

      Re:

      The typo is fantastic. "Refund the police".

      These are defective, replace them with properly functioning police or give me my money back.

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

  • icon
    Norahc (profile), 1 Jul 2020 @ 7:49pm

    The officer was just living up to what NYPD really stands for, Nocking Your Punkass Down (with apologies to Men In Black).

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

  • identicon
    NoLongerBreathedIn, 1 Jul 2020 @ 8:20pm

    This is why obstructing review should be grounds for immediate dismissal of a police officer. Cover up your name or ID number? NO JOB FOR YOU! Refuse an interview with complaints board without a really good reason? NO JOB FOR YOU!

    Like resisting arrest, it doesn't matter if there's no underlying problem. Body camera off? NO JOB FOR YOU!

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

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 1 Jul 2020 @ 8:52pm

      'After careful review by myself I have found that I'm innocent.'

      Adding insult to injury(at times literal) is the blatant hypocrisy, in that you can be damn sure that if the NYPD was investigating someone accused of a crime that didn't have a badge or enough wealth/power they would never accept the accused deciding that nah, they're going to investigate themselves, because they don't want some outside party getting in the way.

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

      • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
        identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 1 Jul 2020 @ 10:30pm

        Re: 'After careful review by myself I have found that I'm innoce

        I think we should investigate you. You are PRO police, I've read a LOT of your posts, here and on Twitter, going back for YEARS. Let's start with your name and address, phone number and Email, geo-location and bank accounts, twitter and Facebook accounts and passwords. Give 'em up, or be INVESTIGATED the same way Michael Flynn was Investigated and Donald Trump was Investigated! RIGHT NOW! FORK 'EM OVER! OR ELSE! (signed BLM)

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

        • identicon
          Investigation Team, 2 Jul 2020 @ 6:04am

          Re: Re: 'After careful review by myself I have found that I'm in

          Don't worry, the investigation has been completed by those he appointed to investigate him, and who also report to him. You'll never believe the result!

          ..and you shouldn't

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

        • icon
          bhull242 (profile), 4 Jul 2020 @ 4:34pm

          Re: Re: 'After careful review by myself I have found that I'm in

          WTF are you talking about?

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

        • icon
          Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 6 Jul 2020 @ 5:54am

          Re: Re: 'After careful review by myself I have found that I'm in

          "Give 'em up, or be INVESTIGATED the same way Michael Flynn was Investigated and Donald Trump was Investigated!"

          So, nothing else to offer than your usual hysterics when trying to sound like what you think a civil rights activist would be?

          Black Lives Matter must have you really triggered there, Baghdad Bob - you even forgot your usual rant about lesbians and gays. Not even a single forlorn "But Obama!". You always manage to get one of those in at the end.

          I hate to say it but if the idea of non-whites gaining the same privileges white folk have upsets you so much you can always, you know, go back where you came from...
          ...On second thought, don't. We really don't want your kind in europe. 1935-45 was quite enough.

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

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 1 Jul 2020 @ 8:48pm

    If you can give your 'boss' orders, they are not in charge

    If the group that you theoretically provide 'oversight' for can tell you that they don't actually feel like doing anything you ask/tell them to and get away with it then you are not providing oversight, you're just taking up space and wasting someone's money.

    While at this point the entire NYPD should be fired and brought up on charges as appropriate barring that then a decent stop-gap measure would be an agency that has both the power and the willingness to hold them accountable, handing out punishments for refusal to cooperate that hit hard enough to get them to pay attention.

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

    • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 1 Jul 2020 @ 10:24pm

      Re: If you can give your 'boss' orders, they are not in charge

      You are so right! Fire them and bring them ALL up on charges! And if they resist arrest, call the police! Wait, what? They are the police? Well, the army of Techdirt will control them, that's what'll happen! Stephen T. Stone will cuff them up and perp walk them in front of the People, and we will tear down their Statues, and burn their Buildings, and the POLICE WILL BE GONE FOREVER! YAY! (where am I again?)

      Signed, Joe Biden

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Jul 2020 @ 8:52pm

    NYPB is a local government sponsored gang

    This is just the latest in a series of incidents that show the NYPD doesn't care about anyone but their own gang members. Throw them all out for violations of our rights and the money they steal from our pockets each time they do something that comes from the cities budget. They somehow have more rights than the people they work for.

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

    • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 1 Jul 2020 @ 10:21pm

      Re: NYPB is a local government sponsored gang

      Right, throw them out, fire them, humiliate them, publish their names so people can spit on them, fire their family members, too, and their friends, neighbors and acquaintances. Defund them all, every one they're connected to, or love, or care about, or ever spoke to, or mingled with in public, no money, no housing, let them starve on the streets!

      But tell me again, who do I call when that burglar breaks in at 2am? Techdirt? Will you come help me? BLM? Will they help?

      Oh, wait, when I ask this question, am I asserting my "privilege"?

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

      • icon
        Stephen T. Stone (profile), 2 Jul 2020 @ 5:49am

        Defund them all, every one they're connected to, or love, or care about, or ever spoke to, or mingled with in public, no money, no housing, let them starve on the streets!

        If doing so meant they would finally realize how fucked (or closed to fucked) that the average person is in this country — how the average American citizen is one, maybe two financial emergencies away from having the social safety net ripped out from under them and being told “you’re on your own” — and the desperation such a situation causes, maybe we should defund the police. Then maybe the police would support funding for that social safety net so cities and states could start fixing issues of homelessness, starvation vis-á-vis food deserts, unaffordable healthcare, and basically any other hole in the social safety net that can create in people the desperation needed for them to commit overt criminal acts.

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

      • icon
        Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 6 Jul 2020 @ 6:02am

        Re: Re: NYPB is a local government sponsored gang

        "But tell me again, who do I call when that burglar breaks in at 2am?"

        If you live in NYC? Sure as hell not the police.

        It's somehow touching that you've completely missed the boat about the not-so-much-news that the police in many municipalities not only fail to show up to confront criminals but have gone so far as to force SCOTUS to admit the police aren't really forced to protect and serve.

        What is truly pathetic is the way you keep upholding what you think is sarcasm when the reality is that "No, the police are factually that bad in many places".

        You think a bunch of politicians - the bunch of people most scared shitless about public backlash and especially the dangers of being "soft on crime" - would be standing up for restricting the police without ANY reason?

        Apparently you do. Well done, Baghdad Bob. What's your next claim? That the Republican Guard of glorious Saddam was so successful in running off the allies it's now perched at the Mexican border?

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

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Jul 2020 @ 10:03pm

    "Oh fuck Donnie," squealed Hamilton, "I'm going to cum!"

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

  • identicon
    Iggy, 2 Jul 2020 @ 6:56am

    For reference, here is how the system reacts if a cop gets hit by a car

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7n639Owa3F0

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

  • icon
    tom (profile), 2 Jul 2020 @ 7:08am

    As a small child, I was taught to look BOTH ways before stepping into the street, for exactly this reason. You never know what idiot is doing something stupid on the road. Getting hit is on the kid.

    Shouldn't absolve the 'Professionally Trained' Officer of being disciplined for being stupid enough to speed the wrong way on a Trick or Treat night. Or the rest of the Dept for the follow on round ups and subsequent cover up.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 2 Jul 2020 @ 12:38pm

      Re:

      As a small child, I was taught to look BOTH ways before stepping into the street, for exactly this reason. You never know what idiot is doing something stupid on the road. Getting hit is on the kid.

      As a slightly less small teenager, I was taught to keep my head on a swivel while operating a motor vehicle, for exactly this reason. You never know when some idiot is doing something stupid on the road. Hitting someone is on the cop.

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

    • icon
      Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 6 Jul 2020 @ 6:14am

      Re:

      "Getting hit is on the kid."

      ...that's not how it works. If a motorist hits a pedestrian it's on the motorist to demonstrate that he was driving in a way which would allow him/her to evade or brake when shit happens. It doesn't matter if the kid was doing cartwheels down the road.

      Also, read the OP again. The kid was a black child trying to get away from a situation where police officers were, to all intent, currently targeting black children.
      In NYC if you're black and want to keep your teeth and skull intact, running as soon as you see police eager to roll is what you learn as a child. For good reason.

      Lest some cop decides to take a knee. On your throat. Remember that NYC is one of those cities where we already know enough police are invested in race war to the point where they feel comfortable talking about "slaughtering n_ggers" with other officers at random.

      I learned to look both ways as a child as well and if I observed a police action going down and wanted to cross the road to avoid it then yes, I'd look both ways. But I'm white and in Europe.
      If I was black and in the US I'd just run for my life.

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

  • identicon
    Adam, 2 Jul 2020 @ 7:29am

    Resisting arrest

    Can someone explain to me how someone can be arrested for resisting arrest when they have no other charges against them?

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

  • icon
    Ed (profile), 2 Jul 2020 @ 7:34am

    RICO

    Police Unions should be dismantled and outlawed, with their leadership hauled off to prison. They have become a defacto "organized crime ring" and terrorist organization worse than the Italian Mafia. Get rid of "qualified immunity", attack their pensions instead of taxpayers. The days of the police being above the law are over.

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

  • icon
    ECA (profile), 2 Jul 2020 @ 1:42pm

    Love the checks and balances.

    I have wondered Why I pay for taxes that pay their wages if the state cant even take the time to CHECK on them.
    $40k Plus per year is good money.

    But the stupidity thats come around, is getting very bad.
    Old days the police lived in/near the neighborhoods they patrolled, and knew what was happening. NOw they live in groups or WAY over there, in a nice home, and have to Patrol an area they have no concern over, with people they probably will never know.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 2 Jul 2020 @ 7:24pm

    Insurance

    The easiest way to hild police accountable is to force all officers to get their own liability insurance and stop making taxpayers foot the bill for their misdeeds.

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

    • icon
      ECA (profile), 3 Jul 2020 @ 12:24pm

      Re: Insurance

      good thought,
      Except how much coverage do you think they need?
      Bars now days have to have coverage over $100k.
      Cities can be hit with over $500k damages.

      Personal or job protection Insurance would probably take 1/2 of their wages.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 3 Jul 2020 @ 1:29pm

        Re: Re: Insurance

        Easy. With the city/county no longer responsible for their insurance, it could be redirected to officers. The good cops see their rates decrease over time and the bad ones simply won't be able to afford being a cop due to high premiums.

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

      • icon
        That One Guy (profile), 3 Jul 2020 @ 3:15pm

        Apply force correctly and a little can do a lot

        I'd be fine with dropping the settlement/fine amounts levied against cops, making it so that they would need 'lower' liability coverage if it meant that they personally would be on the hook.

        A fine of fifty thousand paid out mostly by their insurance and the increase in premiums would provide a lot more incentive to behave than a million dollar fine that the city and thereby the taxpayers are on the hook for.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 2 Jul 2020 @ 9:00pm

    my life win

    Every time I here a story like this, I think, thank god I'm not American and that I live on the other side of the planet.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Jul 2020 @ 9:58pm

    I’d like to see techdirt get on the crash not accident train. https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/newsroom/crash-not-accident Even the Associated Press mostly embraced the idea a few years ago. https://usa.streetsblog.org/2016/04/04/associated-press-cautions-journalists-that-crashes-ar ent-always-accidents/

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 4 Jul 2020 @ 11:02am

    I thought that law enforcement was tasked with ... you know ... law enforcement.

    But apparently, they are tasked with being racist assholes who beat the crap outta people for no reason whatsoever. Sorta like the brown shirts.

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

    • icon
      Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 6 Jul 2020 @ 6:28am

      Re:

      "But apparently, they are tasked with being racist assholes who beat the crap outta people for no reason whatsoever. Sorta like the brown shirts."

      You are more right than you know.

      The head of the minnesota police unions is an open white supremacist.

      NYC police are comfortable enough debating the race war some officers have ended up on tape relishing the idea of "slaughtering the blacks" through simple accidental audits of vehicle camera logs.

      Not every US police department is riddled with racists and thugs. The problem is that in many places trying to fire an officer for good is almost impossible so at best they just shuffle the real thugs around until they find a precinct of...likeminded people.

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


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here



Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter




Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Make this the First Word or Last Word. No thanks. (get credits or sign in to see balance)    
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Close

Add A Reply

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here



Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter




Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Make this the First Word or Last Word. No thanks. (get credits or sign in to see balance)    
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Follow Techdirt
Insider Shop - Show Your Support!

Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Recent Stories

This site, like most other sites on the web, uses cookies. For more information, see our privacy policy. Got it
Close

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.