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Mission Failure: Civilian Review of Policing in NYC (2007)


Independent oversight of the New York Police Department is essential to making police accountable in instances of misconduct. Ignored complaints of police misconduct erode the public’s trust in the police force and weaken its ability to protect the public. The City of New York amended its Charter in July 1993 to establish the Civilian Complaint Review Board, an independent oversight agency to review and investigate civilian complaints of police misconduct. This report, Mission Failure: Civilian Review of Policing in New York City 1994 – 2006, exposes a fundamentally flawed system in which the CCRB often fails to effectively investigate complaints and advocate for reform of dangerous and misguided police practices. Even as complaints of police misconduct have increased sharply over the past five years, the CCRB has closed more than half of all complaints without initiating an investigation. When the CCBR substantiates a complaint, the NYPD often fails to discipline the offending officer. When it does impose discipline, the sanction is little more than a slap on the wrist. Officers cited for use of excessive force often face verbal admonishment or, at worst, a loss of 10 vacation days. This report is not an attack on the NYPD. It is a call to public officials to strengthen civilian oversight, and thereby, improve police protection. It makes several recommendations for improving civilian oversight, such as establishing an Inspector General to monitor and audit police policies and practices, and allocating the CCRB sufficient resources to fulfill its mission.

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