The city’s police watchdog agency can now investigate allegations of bias-based policing, racial profiling, and improper use of body cameras. The Civilian Complaint Review Board voted to expand the scope of its investigations at its monthly board meeting on Wednesday.

The City Council had already passed local laws granting the agency more powers. Approving an updated set of rules was the last step to make those changes official.

The CCRB is tasked with conducting independent reviews of officers’ actions when they are accused of misconduct in order to determine if they have broken any NYPD policies. But it does not investigate all allegations of bad behavior — only complaints that fit into a few categories, including excessive force and discourtesy.

The updated rules broaden the types of alleged policy violations that the agency can investigate. The agency will now be able to look for signs of discrimination if it suspects that officers are treating people differently because of their race, gender, or other identity traits. In extreme cases, it will be allowed to look into officers’ records to see if their actions are part of a larger pattern of bias. Off-duty actions will also prompt reviews of officers’ histories in some instances.

For years, the NYPD was in charge of investigating allegations of bias-based policing brought against its own officers. A 2019 Department of Investigation report, however, found that the department had not disciplined a single officer for such a policy violation.

The City Council voted in 2021 to add reviews of bias-based policing and racial profiling to the CCRB’s purview. Months later, the agency announced that it had hired prominent civil rights attorney Darius Charney — who served as lead counsel in a class action lawsuit against the city for its use of stop-and-frisk — to lead those investigations. Charney has already begun assembling his team so the unit can get to work once the new rules take effect.

Another change to the CCRB’s rules will allow it to investigate claims that officers have failed to follow department rules regarding when and how to use their body cameras. Officers are supposed to turn their cameras on during much of their day-to-day work — especially in encounters that could escalate. But that doesn’t always happen.

The NYPD resisted the oversight group’s plans to investigate improper body camera use, calling it “misguided” and a “substantial overreach” in a July letter to the CCRB’s attorney. The department already provides body camera footage to the agency to help with its investigations, though that video is typically used as evidence for allegations of other types of misconduct — not for complaints about how officers are using their cameras. The CCRB has also struggled to access body camera footage over the years.

One more major change to the CCRB’s rules will allow the agency to launch its own investigations, whether or not a community member has filed a complaint. Some other police watchdog groups across the country already allow their agencies to open their own reviews. A smaller change will update some of the language the CCRB uses to describe the outcomes of its cases, to make it easier for the public to understand.

Several of the proposed updates sparked debate among board members, who feared the suggested changes to the rules could lead to unintended consequences. Some worried that CCRB staff wouldn’t be equipped to conduct fair investigations into allegations of bias-based policing. The board also wondered whether reviews of officers’ past actions in severe cases would pertain to retired officers. Bits and pieces of language were picked apart and compared to wording in city statutes and court cases. But after more than an hour of back and forth, the members decided to approve the new rules, with just a few members voting against.

The Police Benevolent Association, which represents rank-and-file officers, criticized the proposed rule changes after they were shared with the public this summer.

“Cops know they won’t get ‘fair and impartial’ treatment from CCRB,” said Patrick J. Lynch, the PBA's president, in a statement at the time. “It’s one more reason they’re quitting in droves.”

The union has brought multiple legal challenges against the CCRB regarding proposed rule changes in recent the years, including its decision to investigate claims of sexual misconduct. The courts ultimately ruled in the watchdog’s favor.