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NYCLU Calls On Police To Abolish Panel That Reinvestigates Citizens’ Complaints

The New York Civil Liberties Union today has called on the NYPD to abolish a special internal panel it reportedly has established to re-investigate substantiated cases of police misconduct referred by the Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB). News reports indicate the police panel has been set up specifically to handle such cases arising out of complaints by protesters during the recent Republican National Convention in New York.

“If reports are accurate that such a police panel exists, we are alarmed about these developments,” said Donna Lieberman, Executive Director of the NYCLU. “When the police re-investigate complaints that have already been substantiated by the CCRB, it undermines the concept of civilian review. It also increases the likelihood that valid complaints would not survive a long, drawn out investigation process that ultimately is non-neutral.”

The NYCLU became aware that this police panel had been established following a report in this week’s (Nov. 5, 2004) edition of The Chief-Leader newspaper. The newspaper reports that the unions representing police lobbied Commissioner Raymond Kelly to establish an internal 4-member panel of Chiefs to investigate complaints generated by protesters during the RNC.

The NYPD previously had re-investigated complaints substantiated by the CCRB, a practice to which the NYCLU and others had objected. Such re-investigation can also substantially delay the beginning of the disciplinary process against police. The NYPD ended its re-investigation practice years ago; there is no need to resurrect it now.

“This is a troubling step backwards from the goal of independent, civilian oversight of the police department,” said Christopher Dunn, Associate Legal Director of the NYCLU. “By requiring complaints to clear a second investigation conducted by police officials themselves, the police department seems to be rigging the system to insulate police officers from discipline for misconduct during the RNC. This will do nothing more than give police officials the opportunity to slow down or block appropriate disciplinary action.”

The NYCLU sent a letter to Commissioner Kelly asking that, if the reports are accurate, he abandon this re-investigation panel.

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