A week after releasing the disciplinary record of Daniel Pantaleo, the officer who put Eric Garner in a fatal chokehold in 2014, ThinkProgress has released the disciplinary record of Richard Haste, the cop who shot and killed Ramarley Graham after following him into his grandmother's house, which it obtained from an anonymous now former employee of the Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB)
Haste accumulated six complaints over a thirteen month period. Although the CCRB could not substantiate any of the 10 allegations in the complaints, Andrew Case, a former CCRB policy director and spokesperson told ThinkProgress it was "unusual" for an officer to have that many complaints against him in such a short period of time. About 3100 cops, or 8.8 percent of the force, have six complaints against them or more for their entire careers.
"There is no transparency related to CCRB and other complaints against officers," Constance Malcolm, Ramarley Graham's mother, told ThinkProgress. "I have wondered: If Haste's record had been transparent, and if Pantaleo's record had been transparent… is it possible that Ramarley and Eric Garner would be alive today?"
I suggested "zero tolerance" for police misconduct a few years ago; such a policy could remove problem officers before the problems become deadly. But police unions, which enjoy broad support from big city leaders even if the rhetoric doesn't always match, help produce rules that protect bad actors. Politicians and voters, meanwhile, continue supporting laws that criminalize inherently non-violent conduct. After Eric Garner's death and a series of other prominent but non-fatal incidents of police brutality, Bill de Blasio insisted police would continue to aggressively enforce petty laws.
Malcolm had called on de Blasio to fire Haste and the other cops involved in Graham's shooting (Haste was the only officer there when he shot and killed Haste, but two others participated in identifying him during a narcotics investigation and wrongly claimed he had a gun—Graham was trying to flush a small amount of marijuana down the toilet before he was shot). Haste was allowed to resign after finding out an administrative judge had recommended he be fired for violating a number of policies in the course of shooting and killing Graham (specifically that if he believed his life was in jeopardy he should've found cover and waited for back up).
Because of union-negotiated contracts and state and federal legal protections, firing a cop is exceedingly difficult. The de Blasio administration has also thwarted attempts at more transparency, deciding that a decades-old state privacy law protected the disciplinary records of police officers. State legislators have not yet done anything to stop the administration from interpreting the law that way. Lawmakers and mayors, even in one-party cities like New York, are still easier to fire than cops. Malcolm has said she'd work to defeat de Blasio when he's up for re-election in November. "Election time is coming, and I'll be one of the people campaigning to make sure he doesn't win," she said when calling on him to fire Haste and the other cops. The kinds of substantive police reforms that could reduce police violence have not yet become a major driver in the nascent mayoral campaign.