The Civilian Complaint Review Board [CCRB] has been given the power to prosecute NYPD officers suspected of wrongdoing, according to an agreement reached by the City Council, the Mayor, and the NYPD Commissioner. The change has been described as a "milestone in the history of civilian police oversight in New York City," in the words of Daniel D. Chu, the president of the board, which receives thousands of complaints against police officers every year.
Currently, police misconduct complaints made to the CCRB are investigated by the Board and, if substantiated, the case is referred to the NYPD for prosecution. Under the agreement, Police Department employees will still serve as judges in misconduct cases, and the NYPD Commissioner will still have the authority to overrule their decisions. But now the Commissioner will be required to formally explain why a judgement was overruled, in writing. And now CCRB lawyers, not NYPD employees, will serve as prosecutors.
According to the Citizens Union, from 2002 to 2010, the CCRB recommended that 2,078 officers receive the most severe penalty, but that recommended punishment was given to only 151 officers. "The CCRB felt like a toothless tiger," City Council Speaker Christine Quinn tells the Times. "The place where people went to make complaints about the few bad apples out there, but they did not know what happened since the prosecution was not done by the CCRB." The CCRB now has the authority to prosecute everything from excessive or unnecessary force to abuse of authority to discourtesy or the use of offensive language on behalf of an NYPD officer.
Mayor Bloomberg said in a statement, "We have no tolerance for corruption or misconduct, and over the last decade the NYPD has aggressively investigated cases developed internally, and through the CCRB. Today’s agreement expands on our pilot program empowering CCRB prosecutors, strengthening our strong monitoring and regulation of police conduct. We expect members of the NYPD to live up to their name - New York’s Finest - and I know they will continue to do so."
But Patrick J. Lynch, the president of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, isn't pleased with the CCRB's new teeth. In a statement, he says, "Our problem with the CCRB has always been first, their predisposition that police officers are always wrong, second, their inexperienced investigators who conduct faulty investigations that arrive at improper conclusions, and now those wrong conclusions will be prosecuted at these kangaroo trials."
Lynch may be heartened to know that the CCRB's incisors still aren't razor sharp. According to the City Council, the Police Commissioner will still have the power "to remove CCRB’s authority to prosecute such cases," but "only where there is an ongoing parallel or criminal investigation against the officer or where the officer has neither a disciplinary record nor any substantiated CCRB complaints." The CCRB must now establish a unit of qualified and experienced attorneys and support staff; funding for that will be taken up at the next City Council meeting.