In response to recent figures showing a 1,000 percent increase in the number of cases of police misconduct where the NYPD did nothing to prosecute offending police officers, the New York Civil Liberties Union today called for the City to remove responsibility for police misconduct prosecutions from the police department.
“It’s simply unrealistic to expect the police to prosecute themselves,” said NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman. “It’s time for fundamental reform of NYPD oversight. It’s intolerable that the Department be allowed to take no action in cases where the Civilian Complaint Review Board has found police misconduct.”
The Civilian Complaint Review Board, or CCRB, is the independent agency charged with investigation complaints of police officer abuse. A March 6, 2008 letter from NYCLU Associate Legal Director Christopher Dunn to CCRB Chair Franklin Stone noted that, according to recently released CCRB data, of the 296 substantiated cases closed by the Department in 2007, more than one-third (34.4 percent) were closed because the Department simply refused to prosecute the officer. This reflects a ten-fold increase from the prior five years, where the rates were as follows: 2006: 3.3 percent; 2005: 2.3 percent; 2004: 2.9 percent; 2003: .8 percent; and 2002: 3.9 percent.
In light of the alarming increase in misconduct cases closed by the NYPD without action, the NYCLU has called on the City to authorize the CCRB to assume responsibility for prosecuting police misconduct cases. Former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani agreed to give the CCRB this very authority near the end of his tenure, and the City Council for several years provided budget funds to the CCRB to support such prosecutions. While that arrangement was struck down by the courts because it would have moved prosecutions out of the NYPD’s Trial Room, the courts made clear that the CCRB itself could conduct the prosecutions so long as they remained in the Trial Room, as the NCYLU proposes.
In a March 11, 2008 letter, NYPD Commissioner Raymond Kelly strongly objected to the NYCLU’s proposal, calling concerns about the large number of dismissed cases “specious.” But the NYCLU disagrees.
“These new figures reveal that the time has come to shift responsibility of prosecuting police misconduct cases away from the NYPD to the CCRB,” Dunn said.