The city agency charged with police oversight is understaffed compared to the number of police officers it is tasked with investigating in cases of alleged misconduct.
According to a report published Wednesday by the Independent Budget Office, roughly a quarter of positions at the Civilian Complaint Review Board remain vacant, contributing to rising delays in completing investigations into complaints that arise from members of the public.
A revision to the city charter in 2019 tied funding for staff at the CCRB to the overall number of police officers in the NYPD. The formula mandated that the agency’s budget for staff equal at least 0.65% of the total allocated for uniformed officers. By that measure, the NYPD’s current headcount of over 35,000 officers should translate into one CCRB employee for every 154 officers, the IBO said.
The watchdog agency currently has a budget for 265 staff. However, as of December 2021, 69 of those positions, including investigators, have not been filled.
“It's unclear the extent to which the vacancies result from CCRB not having identified candidates for various position or difficulty they are having securing approval from the mayor's office to hire the candidate that they have identified,” said Bernard O’Brien, a senior budget analyst at the IBO who authored the report.
In response to a request for comment from Gothamist, a spokesperson for the mayor's office, Jonah Allon, said the CCRB's current funding and the number of personnel it is authorized to hire exceeds the city charter's mandated levels.
“Mayor Adams has consistently said that our city can have the safety we need and the justice we deserve, and the CCRB is a vital partner in those efforts," Allon said. "We have accelerated their hiring process to ensure the agency can fulfill its critical oversight mission.”
But O’Brien said the CCRB acknowledged that the lack of staff was contributing to delays in completing investigations, in addition to disruptions brought on by the pandemic.
According to the Preliminary Mayor’s Management Report released in February, the average time it takes the agency to complete an investigation into alleged misconduct now stands at 586 days, more than four times the CCRB’s target of 140 days.
A spokesperson for the CCRB, Clio Calvo-Platero, said the agency is working with the Office of Management and Budget and expects to fill the positions soon.
At the same time that the agency has faced a staffing shortage, it has also recently acquired a slate of new powers to investigate additional types of police misconduct.
In December of last year, the City Council granted the CCRB the power to self-initiate complaints against officers based on video documentation and other evidence. In the past, it relied solely on official complaints filed by civilians. It also recently prevailed in a lawsuit brought by the Police Benevolent Association that attempted to block the agency from investigating complaints of sexual misconduct by members of the NYPD.
In April of 2021, the City Council passed legislation that gave the CCRB authority to establish a new unit within the agency to investigate racial profiling and biased-based policing. According to sources within the agency who did not want to be named because they weren’t authorized to divulge the information to the press, progress in getting the unit up and running has been stalled by a lack of staff and difficulty in hiring.