Bratton Thinks Police Misconduct Investigations Are Too Harsh

August 27, 2014 | Sophie Weiner

A quarter of complaints against NYPD officers by the Civilian Complaint Review Board have been dismissed without any repercussions for officers, according to the New York Times.

The CCRB is the main recourse for those who wish to challenge police conduct, and the process of getting a complaint through their system can be long and complicated.

In a process that can span months and sometimes years, statements are given, including from the officers involved; an investigation is conducted; and the board rules on whether the complaint is valid. If it finds that it is, a discipline recommendation eventually goes to the police commissioner, who has final say.

The former police commissioner Ray Kelly dismissed a similar number of these recommendations, about 25%, despite current commissioner Bill Bratton’s promises to reform police misconduct.

Bratton told the Times he believes the CCRB’s judgements are too harsh, and doling out their punishments could create a bad atmosphere among the officers. “Based on my eight months sitting in that chair, my sense was that C.C.R.B. was significantly overcharging and overpenalizing,” he said. “If it’s thought to be unfair, if it’s thought to be inconsistent, if it’s thought to be delayed, all of that has negative effects on the way the officers respond.”

Ten years ago, these numbers were much lower, with only 3% of cases being dismissed. The rise has occurred since 2007.

The cases that Mr. Bratton has declined to pursue include ones that involved stop-and-frisk encounters by officers in Manhattan, a home entered without proper justification in Brooklyn and racially offensive language used by transit officers.

In all but one of the 13 cases that Mr. Bratton declined to pursue, which covered actions before 2014, the board recommended command discipline, a middle-ground punishment that can include the loss of vacation days. In the other case, the board asked for a lighter punishment of “instructions,” or a review of the rules. In each, the police commissioner threw out the case, resulting in no punishment at all.

“Given the administration’s laudable concern about police accountability, the last thing the Police Department should be doing is to continue to dismiss cases of misconduct found to be valid by the CCRB,” NYCLU legal director Christopher Dunn told the Times. “It sends a very loud message to officers and the public that the Police Department does not take seriously civilian complaints of police misconduct.” (Photo: GettyMetro)