The City Council yesterday announced legislation that would more closely monitor "overly-aggressive police officers" in the NYPD, through an as-yet-to-be-solidified "Early Intervention System."
"We thought this was particularly important in light of recent events," Manhattan Councilmember Daniel Garodnick told us, referencing plainclothes NYPD Officer James Frascatore's decision to tackle retired tennis star James Blake to the ground outside his midtown hotel two weeks ago.
Frascatore, who has a lengthy record of civilian complains for alleged excessive force, did not identify himself as a police officer and has since been placed on desk duty.
Garodnick says that his bill, which has yet to be published on the City Council website, would call on the NYPD to "maintain a system" to keep track of officers who "may be in need of enhanced training." According to a press release from the city, this might include cataloging an officer's civilian complaints, along with findings from any internal NYPD investigations, and history of excessive force—from using pepper spray during an arrest, to displaying or discharging a firearm.
An accompanying bill, introduced by Brooklyn Councilmember Jumaane Williams, would require the NYPD's Inspector General to monitor said "system," and report back to the Council. Williams's bill expands on 2014 legislation that requires the Inspector General to make quarterly reports on the number of civil actions filed against the NYPD to the Council, Comptroller and Criminal Complaint Review Board.
Garodnick emphasized that both the decision to intervene, and the nature of the intervention, would ultimately be up to the NYPD.
"We will leave it to the police department to determine whether somebody should actually get additional training or monitoring," he said. "We wouldn't put forward what punishments might be. That's something that is well within their expertise to deal with."
Pressed to explain whether the bill would outline strict guidelines—for example, a certain number of excessive force allegations requires an intervention—Garodnick demurred.
"This is mostly a requirement that the police department synthesize the information available to it, to determine whether they have a problem on their hands, and to deal with it," he said.
Patrolmen's Benevolent Association president Pat Lynch had a different take, telling the Daily News, "This legislation is political grandstanding at its most self-serving and counterproductive. Every aspect of a New York City police officer's career — including the unsworn and frequently retaliatory complaints filed against them — is currently tracked and scrutinized with an intensity that is unequaled in any other job."
This June, NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton voiced his opposition to nine proposed police reform bills, including one that would ban chokeholds and expand the definition of "use of force."
"We evaluate all uses of force, including chokeholds...and while there is a general prohibition [on chokeholds], we take into account what the officer was facing at the time," he said, adding that if "an intentional violation" of department policy was discovered, "that would be taken into account."
Bratton also described his department as a "model of transparency," despite ample evidence to the contrary.
"I'm lucky enough to have the opportunity to... tell this story," Blake said last week. "And let people know that this happens too often, and usually not to someone like me [a celebrity]."
Yesterday, the NY Times reported on Bratton's recent "shift in internal discipline." According to Bratton, the department will lighten up on punishing officers for "minor" infractions like being late to court and illegally parking their squad cars.
172 officers were suspended and 134 put on desk duty in 2014. This year so far, 117 have been suspended and 98 have been put on desk duty.
"I'm very conscious of corruption and corruption tendencies," he told the Times. "We'll watch for that officer that is repeatedly racking up the minor violations to see 'Is that minor violation growth now leading to more significant problems?'"