NYPD

New Yorkers Overwhelmingly Voted To Give a Civilian Oversight Board More Power To Investigate Lying Cops

Police unions are unhappy.

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New York City police officers may face actual consequences for lying after voters passed a ballot question Tuesday to strengthen a civilian oversight board that reviews complaints of police misconduct.

New York City voters approved a ballot question by 74 percent that will give the city's Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB), an NYPD oversight group, the power to investigate and potentially prosecute NYPD officers for lying.

Ballot Question 2 will expand the number of CCRB members, increase its funding, and allow the board to investigate the truthfulness of statements made by NYPD officers during the course of its investigations.

The board can now also recommend discipline against police officers found to have lied and require the NYPD police commissioner to provide the CCRB with a written explanation when the commissioner departs from the board's recommendations.

"New Yorkers looked at the facts and voted for greater police accountability in their city," CCRB chair Fred Davie said in a statement following the vote. "This slate of reforms will make the CCRB more efficient, make discipline more transparent, and bolster public confidence in the integrity of the agency's process."

Watchdog reports and media investigations have revealed systemic problems with the disciplinary process guiding the roughly 35,000 sworn officers of the NYPD, the largest police department in the country. The process is cloaked in secrecy, and the NYPD commissioner has total discretion to ignore the disciplinary recommendations in administrative trials of officers.

Last year, BuzzFeed News obtained thousands of NYPD misconduct records through a leak. The resulting investigation identified 319 NYPD employees who had committed offenses serious enough to warrant firing—lying, stealing, ticket-fixing, excessive force—yet were allowed to keep their job.

Embarrassed by the leaks, the NYPD formed an independent panel to review its disciplinary process. The panel released its report earlier this year, finding that there is a "fundamental and pervasive lack of transparency into the [NYPD's] disciplinary process and about disciplinary outcomes."

Police unions, which have opposed efforts to roll back police secrecy laws and increase oversight of the department, urged voters to reject the ballot question.

The Police Benevolent Association (PBA), a powerful union of rank-and-file NYPD officers, said in a statement opposing the ballot question that "each unsubstantiated complaint can derail an officer's career, subjecting him or her to performance monitoring and hurting his or her chances of career advancement."

"An emboldened CCRB would exacerbate this situation, embolden anti-police extremists, and reduce the authority of the Police Commissioner," the PBA continued.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, as is his habit on matters that anger police unions, dithered when asked directly about his stance on the ballot question. Meanwhile, his office was reportedly working behind the scenes to scuttle the initiative. 

Tuesday's vote comes at the same time that district attorneys offices in New York City have begun releasing lists of police officers whose credibility, or lack thereof, has been flagged by prosecutors. These so-called "Brady lists," named after the Supreme Court precedent set in Brady v. Maryland, are used to keep disreputable cops off the witness stand and provide information on past misconduct to defense attorneys.

On Wednesday, the Brooklyn D.A.'s office publicly released a list of 54 NYPD officers with credibility issues, spurred by Freedom of Information requests from Gothamist and WNYC.

"Officer names, including those we are barred from releasing to the public, are regularly disclosed to defense lawyers and the courts in keeping with our legally-mandated obligations," Brooklyn D.A. Eric Gonzalez said Wednesday. "We have also publicly released the identities of police officers my Office has deemed not credible and that we would never use as the sole witness in a case."

Unsurprisingly, police unions also got lathered up about the release of the list.

"It is clear that Brooklyn D.A. Eric Gonzalez has abandoned his prosecutorial role. He sides with the criminals, not crime victims," PBA president Patrick Lynch said in a statement. "He knows that truthful police testimony gets thrown out every day in our courts, often based on a judge's whims and biases. He knows that publicizing this information will destroy the careers of honest police officers and torpedo the cases against violent, gun-toting criminals—assuming he bothers to prosecute them at all."

Among the NYPD officers on the list was Richard Danese, who was indicted for unlawful imprisonment and child endangerment for allegedly dumping a 14-year-old boy in a swamp as punishment for egging cars on Halloween in 2007. Danese eventually pled guilty to disorderly conduct and was allowed to keep his job.

NEXT: A Phoenix Cop Allegedly Showed Up to a Woman's Apartment, Grabbed His Genitals, and Pretended To Shoot Her

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  1. To the PBA is good at protecting bad cops. Nothing is too bad.

    Lynch himself was publicly defending an officer that sodomized someone in their custody with a broomstick. Basically saying the guy got what he deserved. The cop did go to jail.

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  2. New York City police officers may face actual consequences for lying after voters passed a ballot question Tuesday to strengthen a civilian oversight board that reviews complaints of police misconduct.

    It seems a little naive to think this means what you think it means.

    1. Exactly.

    2. So what does it mean?

  3. OT: Just to throw in a comment about the biggest story of the year, CBS and ABC have acted with dogged determination to uncover the facts over the Epstein leak and have fired the whistleblower.

    And people say the Media don’t do real fact-checking and journalism anymore…

  4. What are we up to now on the number of times the NYPD has gotten a new and improved civilian accountability watchdog of some sort, necessitated by the unexpected discovery that the old watchdog was blind and deaf and toothless and was kept locked in the police chief’s desk drawer? And why should I think this one is going to be any different than the others?

    1. You can tell how effective it’ll be by how enraged its existence makes the PBA. The more vocally they oppose a particular measure, the more likely it is to discover and discipline the bad actors. This one seems to merit about a 4/10 – which is higher than any of the previous measures, but until they bring out the police strikes, intimidating “protection” details, and leaking dirt on supporting politicians it’s not gonna be truly effective.

  5. New York City voters approved a ballot question by 74 percent that will give the city’s Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB), an NYPD oversight group, the power to investigate and potentially prosecute NYPD officers for lying.

    It’s hard to get 74% of the public to agree to getting a day off, much less something this ‘controversial.’ This restores my faith – a little – in the public. Maybe the Eric Garner case has finally stirred up people’s consciences and basic skepticism about the blue goons.

  6. This is comedy gold.

    each unsubstantiated complaint

    Unsubstantiated because the cops prevented the investigation which would have substantiated it; it’s a mighty low bar when the cops can’t find any path to clearing a complaint.

    He knows that publicizing this information will destroy the careers of honest police officers and torpedo the cases against violent, gun-toting criminals—assuming he bothers to prosecute them at all

    The cops are the “violent, gun-toting criminals” that prosecutors have declined to prosecute. And there are no honest police in New York, except possibly for whoever leaked the list of uncredible cops.

    1. Exactly! And by the way, why would “honest police officers” be worried about their careers being destroyed? Because of maybe, just maybe, that little old sense of belonging called “the thin blue line”!

  7. The board can now also recommend discipline against police officers found to have lied…

    Uh-huh.

    1. …and require the NYPD police commissioner to provide the CCRB with a written explanation when the commissioner departs from the board’s recommendations.

      It’s easy to make this sound meaningless when you cut out the part that actually has some meaning. Getting NYPD on the written record about this stuff is good progress.

      1. Is FYTW an acceptable explanation?

        1. At least it will be on the record.

  8. How long until the Police Union and the Civilian Oversight Board become friends and this becomes another backwater of bureaucracy?

    1. Just try to enjoy it while it lasts

  9. Philly had a civilian review board for police shootings back in the ’80s. The police union declared them to be kangaroo courts, and cops didn’t bother to appear for their hearings, and nothing changed.

    1. Yeah, but that was only because the judge kept getting booed out of the court.

  10. Until we decriminalize normal human activity and repeal qualified immunity, nothing will ever change. The cops will continue their criminal activity until you make them feel pain.

  11. The police don’t need unions.
    The police don’t need oversight committees.
    The police don’t need to be regulated.
    The police need more guns.
    They need more vicious dogs.
    They need more armored personnel carriers.
    They need more Apache attack helicopter gunships.
    They need more freedom to beat, strangle, maim and shoot anyone they want, anytime they want anywhere they want.
    We can’t have a free country if we don’t have a police force ready and willing to do what’s necessary to oppress the masses.
    Just ask Beria or Himmler some time.
    They’ll set you on the straight and narrow.

    1. Beria and Himmler aren’t taking calls. Anyone local?

  12. sounds like a bunch of HOA types *bitching at* the city instead of using the city as a hammer

  13. Ballot Question 2 will expand the number of CCRB members, increase its funding, and allow the board to investigate the truthfulness of statements made by NYPD officers during the course of its investigations.

    There’s something about all this that feels… empty.

    They’re allowed to… investigate the ‘truthiness’ of officers. Here’s what I imagine the Union lawyer’s response was:

    “Sure… you do that. You “investigate” all you want. You still have no power to act on a single thing you find in the course of your “investigation”. Hell you can “investigate” my dog if you want. Have fun with that.

    To wit:

    The board can now also recommend discipline against police officers found to have lied and require the NYPD police commissioner to provide the CCRB with a written explanation when the commissioner departs from the board’s recommendations.

    Again, the Union Lawyer: You can “recommend” all the discipline in the world… not a single drop of ink you spill is binding in any way, because we have an iron-clad contract, and anything and everything that’s outside of that contract falls under the strict purview of law enforcement and prosecutors– Ie, us.

    Blow.

    1. The requirement for the commissioner to provide written explanation when they deviate from the board’s recommendations is significant, though. If they ignore the findings they at least need to put out a statement saying why, which means the press can report on it etc.

      1. Board: Please provide written explanation as to why you deviated from the Board’s recommendations for discipline.

        Commisioner: The Union Contract precluded me from doing so.

        1. So who signed that contract, enabling a basically criminal organization to protect it’s members?

  14. Among the NYPD officers on the list was Richard Danese, who was indicted for unlawful imprisonment and child endangerment for allegedly dumping a 14-year-old boy in a swamp as punishment for egging cars on Halloween in 2007. Danese eventually pled guilty to disorderly conduct and was allowed to keep his job.

    Further… Hey, who are the shitty cops.

    *lightbulb*

    I know, we need to create a list… if we have a list, that’ll stop the shitty cops!

    *creates list*

    Is the list working?

    Well, no, but if we release the list to the public, then that’ll change everything!

    1. Maybe re-arm the citizens?

      1. In NYC? The citizens have disarmed themselves, and they prefer it that way. Let them reap the consequences of that poor decision.

  15. “identified 319 NYPD employees who had committed offenses serious enough to warrant firing—lying, stealing, ticket-fixing, excessive force—yet were allowed to keep their job.”

    A mere rounding error

  16. Brooklyn D.A. Eric Gonzalez said Wednesday. “We have also publicly released the identities of police officers my Office has deemed not credible and that we would never use as the sole witness in a case.”

    He then said in a sane world they wouldn’t be police officers if they were deemed not credible but what can ya do?

  17. sounds like the creation of elizabeth warren’s brainchild, The CFPB, after wells fargo…which no libertarian or republican seemed to go along with….this is soviet obfuscation. should be reducing the power of one agency rather than giving another one more.

    1. The CFPB uses government power to go after private entities, though. Pitting multiple wings of government against each other isn’t Soviet obfuscation, it’s called “checks and balances” and features rather prominently in the founding documents of this nation.

  18. Not that the cops aren’t full of shit, but the people they tend to arrest in NYC are equally, if not more, full of shit.

    Arrestee: “Man, that pig was racist … I was just standing there, minding my own business.”

    NYPD: “The illegal firearm in the suspect’s waistband was visible and we have a video surveillance recording to confirm it. There was probable cause for the arrest.”

    “Bullshit. Those honkey fucks edited that shit. And then cuffed my shit so tight I couldn’t feel my fingers for the whole car ride. Racist ass fucks…..”

    CCRB: “Sounds credible. We recommend the officer be immediately suspended for being a racist fu …… er, for being accused of …. actually [confers with counsel] …. [whispering continues] ….. We recommend termination.”

    1. This is a libertarian site. We reject the concept of an “illegal firearm”.

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  21. Badly needed nationwide. Or we can just keep allowing cops to investigate police charges of misconduct.

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