The New York Civil Liberties Union today called on Mayor Bloomberg and Ernest F. Hart, the mayor’s new appointee to lead the Civilian Complaint Review Board, to take immediate steps to strengthen civilian oversight of the NYPD.

Hart, whose appointment as CCRB chairman was announced today, replaces Franklin Stone, who had worked to improve the agency’s ability to hold police officers accountable for acts of misconduct.

“Civilian oversight of the NYPD is broken, and as a consequence, there is little accountability for police misconduct,” said Donna Lieberman, NYCLU executive director. “During her tenure as chairwoman, Franklin Stone tried to fix the agency. We look forward to working with Mr. Hart, as we believe this leadership transition provides an excellent opportunity to restore public trust in the CCRB by initiating important reforms.”

A 1993 amendment to the City Charter established the CCRB as an independent oversight agency responsible for fielding and investigating complaints of police misconduct. It has struggled to fulfill this mission. Of the 7,421 misconduct complaints the CCRB received last year, it closed more than 65 percent, 4,561, without even completing an investigation.

When the CCRB substantiates a complaint, the NYPD often decides not to prosecute the offending officer. In 2008 and 2007, 35 percent of substantiated complaints were dismissed without prosecution. When officers are prosecuted, the resulting discipline often amounts to a slap on the wrist. Since 2005, only 25 percent of officers found guilty of misconduct received punishment more severe than instructions.

To restore public confidence in civilian oversight of the NYPD, the NYCLU recommends Mayor Bloomberg and the City Council swiftly enact the following reforms:

  • Invest the human and financial resources needed to substantially improve CCRB investigations and engage the public in improving police practices and police-community relations;
  • Create a CCRB unit responsible for analyzing policing issues that arise in investigating misconduct complaints and recommending reforms in NYPD polices and practices;
  • Transfer authority to prosecute substantiated police misconduct from the NYPD to CCRB, which would eliminate the problem of cases being dropped by a police department that may be protecting its own officers;
  • Provide meaningful discipline to officers found to have engaged in misconduct.

“Accountability benefits everyone, including the vast majority of cops who are dedicated to making their communities safer and stronger,” said NYCLU Associate Legal Director Christopher Dunn. “New Yorkers need to trust that their misconduct complaints are taken seriously by the CCRB and NYPD. It is up to Mr. Hart and our elected officials to provide this crucial public service.”