Advocates, Electeds, Legal Groups & New Yorkers Directly Harmed Demand de Blasio & O’Neill Take Action to Fix Broken NYPD Disciplinary System

Following investigation revealing hundreds of NYPD officers guilty of serious misconduct being spared meaningful discipline, police reform campaign calls for firings and concrete reforms to help fix failed police accountability that allows abusive officers to continue in department, undermining trust and safety.

New York, NY – Following a BuzzFeed investigation revealing the NYPD’s failure to meaningfully discipline hundreds of officers found guilty of serious misconduct (brutality, sexual abuses, lying/perjury, abuses by school officers, etc.), advocates, elected officials and New Yorkers directly harmed by police abuses called for Mayor de Blasio and NYPD Commissioner O’Neill to take specific steps to fix the NYPD’s broken accountability systems. The group called for de Blasio and O’Neill to commit to a range of solutions that can help to begin fixing the systemic problems with police accountability that are undermining trust, safety and justice in New York City.
“The NYPD’s broken accountability system, failing to meaningfully discipline officers who are engaging in some of the most serious abuses and misconduct, is in a state of crisis” said Rama Issa-Ibrahim, a spokesperson for Communities United for Police Reform. “This is dangerous because abusive officers disregarding their most fundamental oath to the public are being allowed to continue as officers and commit increasingly worse abuses which can include killings of civilians after they are not held accountable by the department. And all of this is being systematically hidden from the public. The mayor and police commissioner continue hiding behind excuses and rhetoric, but there are concrete steps they can take if they are serious about acting in good faith to address this crisis, and we are demanding immediate action from them.”

Specifically, Communities United for Police Reform called for Mayor de Blasio & Commissioner O’Neill to:
  1. Fire all the 300+ officers BuzzFeed uncovered to have been given a mere slap on the wrist after being found guilty of the most serious offenses that undermine justice and safety – serious police brutality and violence against civilians, sexual abuses, harassment and misconduct, lying in official proceedings and reports and to prosecutors and committing perjury, abuses by officers in public schools, etc.
  2. Commit to publicly notice all NYPD disciplinary hearings with the relevant information on the misconduct at subject, and publicly releasing disciplinary outcomes following such proceedings.
  3. Commit to automatically firing – rather than giving a slap on the wrist as outlined in the BuzzFeed investigation – all officers who engage in several categories of the most egregious misconduct, including: lying on official reports, to prosecutors, in official capacity or proceedings/perjury (the Patrol Guide already states that all officers who are found to lie in official proceedings/reports will be terminated unless there are exceptional circumstances, so the NYPD is currently failing to fulfill its own rule); violently abusing, brutalizing or killing civilians – the department should have a serious zero-tolerance policy against officers who engage in such brutality; sexually abusing, assaulting or harassing civilians or colleagues – there is no place for officers who commit these acts of sexual abuse, abusing their positions of power; other acts of serious misconduct that would not be tolerated in any other field and would lead to termination.
  4. Commit to end the City’s legal maneuvers and ever-expanding misuse of state law 50a as an excuse to increasingly shield abusive officers from public scrutiny, and commit to support full repeal of 50a at the state level.
  5. End obstruction and delays of disciplinary proceedings for egregious cases of brutality and misconduct, including cases of unjustified police killings, excessive force and lying in official capacity. It’s nearly four years since Eric Garner was killed and almost two years since Delrawn Small was killed, yet the officers responsible for the killing and misconduct in those cases haven’t been held accountable. It took almost six years and tremendous public pressure for minimal disciplinary action in Ramarley Graham’s killing. None of the officers who were found to lie in these cases have been fired, and in some cases have not even been identified to the families.
The broken NYPD disciplinary system also requires independent oversight to provide the public with a comprehensive understanding and review and stem mistrust. This could include the City Council holding a hearing to provide its oversight of the systemic and outrageous problems with NYPD accountability, the NYPD inspector general doing a full investigation and report on NYPD disciplinary outcomes for the most serious misconduct (including the aforementioned categories), and passing the Right to Record legislation – Intro 721 – to protect the rights of New Yorkers to document police abuses.
While the BuzzFeed investigation uncovered hundreds of officers given leniency for some of the most serious misconduct, it only represents a portion of the full picture. It only highlighted officers who were placed on the trivial “dismissal probation” and there are likely far more officers who never even receive that when they engage in serious abuses and misconduct. This severe lack of accountability for misconduct comes at a time when the de Blasio administration and NYPD are decreasing transparency of those failures through their misuse of state law 50a. The comprehensive picture remains cloaked, because the NYPD under de Blasio has misused the law by continually creating new interpretations that serve to conceal an unprecedented amount of information about police misconduct and discipline, or lack thereof, for it.

“There is a bonafide cultural of impunity alive and well at the New York City Police Department,” said Tina Luongo, Attorney-In-Charge of the Criminal Defense Practice at The Legal Aid Society. “Officers who commit heinous crimes receive a mere slap on the wrist, plain and simple. This is an insult to every New Yorker – especially our clients – who suffer a much different and much more severe criminal justice system. If Mayor Bill de Blasio is sincere about improving police-community relationships, City Hall must address these core issues of police brutality, corruption, transparency and accountability. These latest revelations warrant immediate investigation, and we call on the City to shed some much needed sunlight on the NYPD’s current opaque disciplinary process.”
The BuzzFeed investigation only confirmed the experiences of New Yorkers, subjected to police abuses and who have experienced the stunning absence of meaningful and timely accountability for the responsible NYPD officers. Over the last four years, there have been several examples of how broken the system of accountability is at the NYPD. It took the NYPD close to six years (and nearly de Blasio’s entire first term) to take action against the officers who killed Ramarley Graham, despite the killing occurring in 2012 (nearly two years before de Blasio assumed office). Officer Richard Haste – who pulled the trigger – was allowed to resign from the NYPD, Sergeant Scott Morris – a supervising officer on the scene – was allowed to resign at the end of 2017 with his full pension, and Officer John McLoughlin – who kicked down the door to the family’s apartment that led to the killing and lied in the NYPD’s administrative trial – was placed on “dismissal probation.” There have been a number of other examples of officers not being held meaningfully accountable for serious brutality, like the officer who almost killed 14-year-old Javier Payne by shoving him through a glass window.
The officers involved in the killing of Eric Garner, which occurred almost four years ago, have still not been held accountable, despite the CCRB being ready to prosecute Officer Daniel Pantaleo. Other officers who used force against Garner or did not intervene as a banned chokehold was used to kill him, as well as those who lied on official reports about that use of force, have also not been held accountable some four years later.
“The NYPD has a serious crisis – a broken system of accountability that fails to meaningfully hold officers accountable,” said Gwen Carr, the mother of Eric Garner. “It's been almost four years since officers murdered my son Eric, and yet the de Blasio administration has failed to hold the officers accountable, including all the officers who used excessive force on him, failed to intervene, and lied on official reports about it. This lack of accountability is corruption of the worst kind because it perpetuates injustice perpetrated by those who are supposed to serve and protect.”
BuzzFeed News published an investigation that found hundreds of NYPD officers guilty of serious misconduct – brutality, sexual abuse, lying on official reports, perjury, abuses by school officers, etc. – were not meaningfully held accountable and remain in the department.
Elected officials who participated in calling for action to address the NYPD’s broken accountability system included Council members Carlos Menchaca (Vice-Chair of the Progressive Caucus), Donovan Richards (Chair of the Public Safety Committee), and Jumaane Williams. Communities United for Police Reform organizations involved included Legal Aid Society, Arab American Association of New York, The Bronx Defenders, Center for Constitutional Rights, Girls for Gender Equity, Justice Committee, NYCLU, and others.
“The NYPD’s systematic failure to handle misconduct within their ranks is a betrayal of public trust.” said Council Member Carlos Menchaca, Vice-Chair of the Progressive Caucus. “Our members are collectively outraged to learn of this severe lack of accountability by the NYPD. We will be working with our colleagues at City Hall to demand for further oversight on the systemic issues within NYPD’s disciplinary system and passage of bills that increase police transparency and accountability.”
“I am deeply concerned by accusations made in the Buzzfeed report published this week,” said Council Member Antonio Reynoso, member of the Progressive Caucus. “This is a prime example of the Department’s failure to address misconduct within its ranks. The NYPD cannot expect to gain the trust of the communities it polices when it fails to police its own members and hold them accountable. I am demanding that immediate action be taken against any officer who has violated the trust of our communities.”
“For an administration that has repeated commitments to better transparency and accountability around the better policing conversation, it remains aggravating to hear of these systemic problems of failing to adequately deal with misconduct within the NYPD. It’s time that the words are backed by real-time action,” said Council Member Jumaane D. Williams, member of the Progressive Caucus. “In addition to pushing this administration to act on its promises, I, along with my colleagues in the Progressive Caucus, will work to pass the Right To Record, as a way to protect the rights of New Yorkers who aim to hold the NYPD accountable by documenting possible police abuse.”
“Transparency and accountability for charges of police misconduct are essential to ensure public trust and safety,” said Council Member Brad Lander, member of the Progressive Caucus. “The Caucus has been at the forefront of demanding transparency and accountability from the NYPD as well as justice for the families of victims of police misconduct and abuse, including Ramarley Graham. A slap on the wrist is not acceptable when bad actors continue to jeopardize public trust in the NYPD. It is long past time to address the issue of police misconduct  and abuse in the NYPD and fundamentally improve the disciplinary measures the agency uses.”

About Communities United for Police Reform

Communities United for Police Reform (CPR) is an unprecedented campaign to end discriminatory policing practices in New York, and to build a lasting movement that promotes public safety and policing practices based on cooperation and respect– not discriminatory targeting and harassment.

CPR brings together a movement of community members, lawyers, researchers and activists to work for change. The partners in this campaign come from all 5 boroughs, from all walks of life and represent many of those unfairly targeted the most by the NYPD. CPR is fighting for reforms that will promote community safety while ensuring that the NYPD protects and serves all New Yorkers.

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