FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE | June 2, 2014
Contact: Mandela Jones, 646.200.5316
, Mandela [at] berlinrosen.com (Mandela [at] berlinrosen.com)
Campaign That Pushed for NYPD Inspector General Calls for Investigations into Long-Standing & Continuing Problematic Practices, Policies
Communities United for Police Reform releases report calling for IG investigations of discriminatory policing practices, including marijuana arrests, unlawful searches, Muslim surveillance, and use of excessive and deadly force
New York, NY – Communities United for Police Reform released a new report – Priorities for the New NYPD Inspector General: Promoting Safety, Dignity and Rights for All New Yorkers
– that calls for newly appointed NYPD Inspector General (IG) Phillip K. Eure to open investigations into several long-term and continuing NYPD policies, practices and procedures considered to be problematic. The report, released by the campaign that successfully advocated for establishment of The Office of the Inspector General last year
, comes at the beginning of Eure’s second week at the helm of the office New Yorkers “overwhelmingly” supported establishing
according to public polling. The report calls for several priority investigations, including into discriminatory marijuana arrests, unlawful searches, surveillance of Muslim communities, low-level enforcement, use of excessive and deadly force, and disciplinary policies and outcomes in cases of misconduct.
“In order for interactions between communities and the police to improve, and for real public safety to be achieved, there must be public accountability. It is also essential that abusive, discriminatory and ineffective policies and practices are eliminated – that is where this report is focused,” said Monifa Bandele of Communities United for Police Reform. “Whether it is the persistence of discriminatory arrests of Black and Brown New Yorkers for possession of small amounts of marijuana – in part caused by unlawful searches – or the continued attempts to broadly surveil Muslims communities, there are a range of policing policies and practices that continue to be harmful to communities throughout our city and counterproductive to public safety. After years of absent and lackluster public accountability for the NYPD, we expect IG Eure will provide comprehensive and independent oversight that investigates and addresses these issues in order to help ensure that the department uses effective policies and practices that keep New Yorkers safe while respecting their civil rights and the law.”
ColorOfChange Executive Director Rashad Robinson stated, “After years of hard work by every day New Yorkers who spoke out and raised their voices, the new Office of the Inspector General creates an incredible opportunity for much-need change of NYPD policies. Our communities deserve and demand a police department that values their lives and respects their dignity.”
It calls for NYPD Inspector General Eure to investigate nine issues in order to release findings and recommendations for policy, procedural and other changes:
1. SELECTIVE ENFORCEMENT OF MINOR OFFENSES
The IG should review and investigate the enforcement of non-violent minor offenses, including possible discriminatory or differential enforcement, and any subsequent arrests or detentions.
2. UNLAWFUL NYPD SEARCHES & DISCRIMINATORY MARIJUANA ARRESTS
The IG should investigate the NYPD’s practice of unlawful searches and discriminatory marijuana arrests.
Unlawful searches of New Yorkers remain a major problem, which in part are responsible for many of the continued discriminatory marijuana arrests of primary Black and Latina/o New Yorkers
. The NYPD may only conduct a search of an individual or their property if there is probable cause of criminal activity, they have a warrant, the person is under arrest, or with a person’s voluntary and informed consent. Evidence suggests that consent searches are rarely voluntary or informed, but rather come from abusive tactics – the Civilian Complaint Review Board’s 2013 report notes that searches represent nearly 20% of misconduct allegations
. An often-reported effect of the NYPD’s unlawful searches is the charging of individuals carrying a small amount of marijuana with a misdemeanor, rather than a violation (a violation is a non-criminal offense, similar to a parking ticket). In 1977, New York State partially decriminalized the possession of small amounts of marijuana. When displayed “in plain view,” marijuana possession is a misdemeanor offense, not a lesser, non-criminal violation when out of plain view. Through NYPD intimidation, coercion, force, or New Yorkers’ lack of knowledge about their rights to refuse a search when no legal justification exists, individuals are often subjected to a misdemeanor offense after police unlawfully go into their pockets without other legal basis, or when New Yorkers respond to police orders to “empty your pockets” by bringing the small amount of marijuana they possess into plain view.
“I have been stopped and searched dozens of times over the last few years,” said Keeshan Harley, a 19-year-old Make the Road New York youth leader. “Never was I given reason for the stop, never was I asked to consent to a search and never did I receive an apology. I hope that the investigations and recommendations that come from the Inspector General's office help to protect young men like me from this unfair practice.”
3. UNLAWFUL NYPD SEARCHES & USE OF CONDOMS AS ARREST EVIDENCE
The IG should investigate unlawful searches with regard to arrests based on seizure of condoms as evidence of prostitution-related offenses.
The documented practice of confiscating and vouchering condoms as arrest evidence, in order to justify charges and arrests for prostitution-related offenses, is another area of concern related to unlawful searches. The result is a mixed message to New Yorkers, with some government agencies encouraging New Yorkers to carry condoms in their public health efforts while the NYPD practice effectively criminalizes it. While the NYPD announced a limited change to this policy that is promising in May 2014, it falls short on a comprehensive ban on the use of condoms as arrest evidence.
“The New York City Anti-Violence Project's latest Hate Violence report documents the pervasive issue of police violence against LGBTQ and HIV-affected New Yorkers including a multi-year trend of police misconduct with 68 reports of police misconduct in 2013 and 78 in 2012,” said Shelby Chestnut Co-Director of Community Organizing and Public Advocacy at the New York City Anti-Violence Project. “We hope to work alongside Inspector General Philip Eure to ban the use of condoms as evidence in all cases including prostitution, prostitution in school zones, loitering for the purposes of prostitution, promoting prostitution, and sex trafficking cases. These issues deeply affect LGBTQ and HIV-affected New Yorkers and the report outlines important steps necessary for the Inspector General Philip Eure to begin acting towards creating a safer New York for all people, including LGBTQ and HIV affected communities.”
Andrea Ritchie, Coordinator of Streetwise and Safe stated: “Monitoring implementation of the newly announced NYPD policy on confiscation of condoms as evidence of some prostitution-related offenses, but not others, is also essential to protecting the health and safety of LGBTQ New Yorkers. The Inspector General has a proven track record of responding to diverse communities, and we look forward to working with him to ensure that the rights of LGBT youth are respected by the NYPD.”
4. NYPD’S USE OF FORCE, PARTICULARLY EXCESSIVE & DEADLY FORCE
The Inspector General should investigate NYPD’s use of force – particularly excessive and deadly force – policies, practices and patterns, and related disciplinary policies, procedures and outcomes.
The NYPD has engaged in controversial, aggressive and discriminatory policing practices to the detriment of the rights, dignity and at times, the lives of New Yorkers. Due to dozens of incidents that primarily only impact certain New Yorkers
, many perceive that there is a discriminatory over-reliance on and abuse of use of force by the NYPD in relation to certain populations, including communities of color and those who have psychiatric or mental disabilities and/or are deemed to be under emotional distress. In 2012, 21 people were killed by NYPD officers, including Ramarley Graham, Reynaldo Cuevas, Noel Polanco and Tamon Robinson. Excessive physical force continues to be the highest force-related complaint against NYPD officers made to the Civilian Complaint Review Board, making up 70% (3,695) of the total of force allegations brought against the NYPD.
Disciplinary processes within the NYPD that should ensure appropriate actions are taken when officers are found to have engaged in unnecessary or excessive use of force are often deficient, meaningless, or simply non-existent. The NYPD’s so-called “blue wall of silence” and reported retaliation against internal whistle-blowers
also hinder accountability. Deficiencies within existing NYPD disciplinary processes perpetuate and exacerbate excessive use of force incidents. In many cases where New Yorkers have lost loved ones in police incidents, there is no confidence that there is an impartial internal or external review of police actions and conduct. Families are also often not informed of the existence or result of reviews or the subsequent assignments of officers involved in incidents of excessive force resulting in the death of their loved ones.
“As an organization that has supported families who have lost loved ones to the NYPD for decades, we know all too well the devastation and suffering caused when a family loses a loved one at the hands of the police,” said Loyda Colon, Co-Director of the Justice Committee. “In the vast majority of these cases, victims are Black and Latino New Yorkers. Our hope is that an IG investigation will shed a bright light into the NYPD’s use of deadly force, and the failures and inadequacies of the NYPD’s internal disciplinary policies and procedures.”
5. NYPD DISCIPLINARY POLICIES & OUTCOMES IN CASES OF MISCONDUCT
Given the widespread concern about NYPD disciplinary policies and procedures, and the exclusive authority of the NYPD Police Commissioner to discipline officers who have committed misconduct, the IG should review existing policies, practices and procedures, and examine the outcomes of NYPD disciplinary cases to determine their adequacy and effectiveness, and identify patterns or problems.
6. NYPD SURVEILLANCE OF MUSLIM COMMUNITIES
The IG should investigate the NYPD’s Muslim spying program which should include review of: the use of informants to target the Muslim community (including the debriefing of individuals in custody); the use of Terrorism Enterprise Investigations, what information the NYPD collects, how it is collected and who has access to the information; and the extent of the NYPD’s extra-jurisdictional activities. The IG should investigate these elements to determine compliance with all applicable laws and policies, including constitutional rights and the Handschu Guidelines, and make policy recommendations to better safeguard civil liberties.
“When we learned that the NYPD was watching our communities, we wanted to know who was watching the NYPD,” said Fahd Ahmed, Legal & Policy Director of DRUM - South Asian Organizing Center. “We expect the newly-created Inspector General to investigate the recruitment and use of informants, the collection of and access to information, the use of Terrorism Enterprise Investigations, and the NYPD's activities beyond New York City. Such investigations would begin to create a level of transparency that is needed to continue reforms of the NYPD.”
7. LACK OF NYPD TRANSPARENCY
The IG should consider conducting an audit of the NYPD’s compliance with New York’s Freedom of Information Law and open data laws.
The NYPD has historically been viewed as one of the least transparent agencies in New York City, often preventing public access to its policies, practices, data and records. As a result, advocates, journalists, academics and members of the public are consistently challenged to secure records, often resorting to legal challenges to obtain information. In then-Public Advocate Bill de Blasio’s “Transparency Report Card
,” the NYPD received an “F” rating for failure to obey the Freedom of Information Law and make records public. More recently, the NYPD denied a FOIL request for its FOIL handbook
, bizarrely citing attorney-client privilege as rationale.
8. HANGING ARRESTS
The IG should consider examining the impact of the NYPD’s 2006 administrative policy change regarding arrest numbers.
In 2006, an NYPD administrative policy change enabled a person charged with a number of counts for a “pattern crime” to be given multiple arrest numbers. A 2013 New York State Attorney General report
on the outcomes of stop-and-frisk practices highlighted this issue of “hanging arrests” – that is, arrests that remain open on someone’s record even though the related charge was resolved, dismissed or otherwise adjudicated. This occurs in part because the Office of Court Administration (OCA) can only administratively resolve one arrest. The Attorney General’s report noted that there were approximately 250,000 hanging arrests as of spring 2013.
9. NYPD COMPLIANCE WITH LGBTQ-RELATED PATROL GUIDE CHANGES
The IG should consider conducting an investigation focused on discriminatory and abusive treatment of LGBTQ New Yorkers, while considering compliance with the LGBTQ-related Patrol Guide changes and the End Discriminatory Profiling Act’s prohibitions on bias-based policing.
For decades, the NYPD’s persistent abuse, sexual assault, harassment and profiling of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender and gender non-conforming (LGBTQ) individuals and communities have been well documented. Recently, several patterns of discriminatory and abusive policing of LGBTQ individuals
have been identified by community-based organizations and the LGBT Advisory Panel to the Police Commissioner. In 2012, amendments were made to the NYPD Patrol Guide to address interactions of law enforcement with LGBTQ people
, including provisions offering guidance on name and pronoun use, searches, and placement in NYPD custody.