Is civilian police oversight effective?
The Civil Complaints Commission (CCRB) has a habit of overlooking serious NYPD breaches, a team investigation 12 has found.
We asked CCRB for records a year ago, and they provided a detailed account of over 150,000 complaints to News 12 in March.
The CCRB came into being in its modern form in 1993. It is responsible for investigating complaints against police officers who break the law.
Here is what we found:
- Only 7 of the more than 150,000 agents who have already been the subject of a complaint were dismissed by the CCRB investigation.
- Seven percent of CCRB complaints were found to be founded, meaning that CCRB investigators were able to prove that the allegations took place.
- This means 93% were unsubstantiated for a variety of reasons, ranging from an inability to pursue the case, to lack of evidence, to fraudulent claims.
- Of these well-founded complaints, our data shows that the CCRB only recommended charges just over half the time, which means these allegations should go to an internal trial (APU).
- Eighty-nine times the complaints were found to be founded, but no recommendation was given.
- Of the times the CCRB has made a disciplinary recommendation for well-founded complaints, the most popular response from the NYPD has been to offer their agents instructions, the least serious sanction, according to our CCRB data.
-The NYPD’s most popular action was DUP, meaning the department was unwilling to prosecute.
-More than 700 times the department has ruled that no penalty is necessary for a valid claim
-More than 1000 times, the response of the ministry to the sanctions to the recommendations of the CCRB was left blank, on the basis of the files which were provided to us.
âMY SON WOULD BE HERE TODAY. ”
DANIEL PANTALEO WAS ONE OF THE OFFICERS FIRED FOLLOWING A CCRB INVESTIGATION
News 12 met Gwen Carr, Eric Garner’s mother. Garner died in 2014 after being placed in an illegal strangulation during an arrest.
We showed him the list of complaints against Daniel Pantaleo, who was fired from the NYPD after placing Garner in this stranglehold.
She was only aware of nine complaints. We showed him 14 of them, all of which were dropped off in front of the chokehold. There were others tabled afterwards.
âSo many people are losing their lives because of bad cops,â Carr said.
Carr told News 12 that if CCRB investigators had pushed for Pantaleo’s dismissal before her son died, she would have just celebrated her son’s 50th birthday.
WHAT’S WRONG WITH CCRB?
We spoke with a former CCRB investigator, keeping her identity hidden for fear of reprisal. She left the CCRB in 2015 because of her frustration at its ineffectiveness.
“They can completely ignore the evidence presented in the case and then make their own decisions,” she told News 12, adding that the 51% threshold for evidence the CCRB was maintaining was actually much higher. due to the difficulty in proving to the board that the allegation actually occurred.
She says investigators like her have often provided more than enough evidence, but nothing was done with their findings.
She continues: “I have witnessed a lot of racism and classism towards people who would file complaints with the CCRB …
HOW DOES THE CCRB WORK?
A civilian files a complaint and an investigation is opened into this complaint.
Investigators find this complaint to be valid, meaning that there was sufficient evidence to prove that the allegation occurred, and that the officer acted illegally or unfounded, which can happen for a variety of reasons, including:
- Exempt: There is evidence that the officer committed the alleged act, but their actions were found to be legal.
- Unfounded: There was insufficient credible evidence to conclude that the officer did not commit the alleged act.
- Unfounded: The evidence found was insufficient to make a recommendation.
- Agent (s) not identified: The CCRB was unable to identify the agent (s) that are the subject of the allegation.
- Miscellaneous: probably means the agent is no longer a member of the NYPD.
- Truncated survey: the survey could not be completed for various reasons:
- The CCRB could not find the complainant, the complainant did not respond to interview requests, the complaint was withdrawn, or the victim could not be identified.
If investigators find the complaint justified, they make a recommendation to the CCRB board, which votes on the final recommendation in groups of three.
Two members are appointed by the mayor, city council or public advocate.
The third is appointed by the police commissioner.
The board is currently chaired by Fred Davie.
The board’s decision goes to the NYPD, along with a suggested penalty. The NYPD responds to this suggestion with a sanction, a departmental lawsuit, or some other outcome, such as an exemption. According to our data, the most common outcome for a substantiated allegation is police academy instruction.
The police commissioner has the final say on disciplinary measures.
WHAT DO WE DO ?
We asked the president of the CCRB about the past and the future of the agency.
âThere is always room for improvement,â Davie told News 12.
We asked her if the Pantaleo case was an example of the agency operating the way it’s supposed to. He said yes, with a caveat:
“So the only problem with this case from a CCRB point of view is that it took us too long to get there because the district attorney and the federal government asked for a stay,” Davie said. . “We have decided that will no longer be the case,” adding that the agency will pursue the allegations as they arise.
The 12 Investigations team found dozens of serious complaints founded without serious sanctions. We asked Davie about them, who told us about their new disciplinary matrix, with a signed agreement, or âmemorandum of understandingâ with the CCRB and NYPD, to help hold police officers accountable.
âThere is a new disciplinary directive, a disciplinary matrix. There are actually what we call presumptive penalties, âDavie added, highlighting specific penalties for specific infractions. For example, illegal strangling should lead to dismissal.
Yet Davie says the CCRB needs absolute authority over police discipline to be truly effective. âFinal authority is what the CCRB needs. At present, the police commissioner still has the last word.
There is a bill in the state Senate committee that could make this idea a reality. The law would give CCRB the final say on what happens to officers who break the rules.