by Christopher Dunn and Donna Lieberman — Last week it surfaced that NYPD Commissioner Raymond Kelly secretly decided in August that officers charged with misconduct during the Republican National Convention by the Civilian Complaint Review Board would not face discipline until after a second investigation by an internal NYPD panel. This assures that some police officers guilty of Convention misconduct will never be disciplined and dangerously undermines the goal of civilian oversight of the police department. In 1993 the City Council set up the CCRB as an independent city agency to investigate complaints of police misconduct. But during the ensuing years of the Giuliani administration the mayor and the NYPD did everything they could to undermine the new agency. One of their most effective strategies was to insist on the Department conducting its own investigations of those cases the CCRB had investigated and then referred for discipline. By reinvestigating these cases, the NYPD dragged out the disciplinary process, got rid of complaints, and rendered the CCRB almost meaningless. Under pressure from advocates, the Department eventually abandoned its re-investigation practice. Even so, a tiny number of police officers have faced discipline as a result of CCRB investigations, with the agency sending to the NYPD only about 5% of the complaints it received during its first ten years of operation. The Department nonetheless has sought to justify the internal NYPD panel by accusing the CCRB of trying before the Convention to encourage “anarchists” to file complaints. But as proven by the fact that the CCRB is investigating only 59 Convention complaints, this is just typical Department misinformation. In truth, there is ample evidence of serious police abuse. The District Attorney’s office already has dismissed over two hundred cases of protesters, bystanders, and observers illegally arrested during the Convention. Shortly after we charged that the NYPD had unlawfully fingerprinted thousands of people, the Department destroyed the fingerprints. And the NYPD’s pervasive video surveillance of lawful demonstrations may have violated the First Amendment rights of tens of thousands of New Yorkers. This special panel will do little but delay disciplinary proceedings, deter people from pursuing complaints since many will not want to be interrogated by police officials, and undermine public confidence in our city’s commitment to addressing police misconduct. The decision to resurrect the re-investigation practice for Convention cases represents a big step backwards from meaningful, independent oversight of the cops. Burying police misconduct is simply wrong. If Commissioner Kelly is not willing to abolish this special panel, Mayor Bloomberg needs to step in and put a stop to it. Dunn is associate legal director and Lieberman executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union.

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