March 27, 2012
By Jill Colvin
MANHATTAN — The NYPD will no longer be responsible for prosecuting nearly all police misconduct cases under a new agreement announced by top city officials Tuesday — a move that the city's largest cop union said would result in "kangaroo trials."
Under the deal, all substantiated cases of misconduct will be prosecuted by attorneys from the Civilian Complaint Review Board — an independent body that investigates complaints against cops — instead of by police.
The controversial move riled the head the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, Pat Lynch, who slammed the CCRB.
"Our problem with CCRB has always been first, their predisposition that police officers are always wrong," Lynch said. "Second, their inexperienced investigators who conduct faulty investigations that arrive at improper conclusions and now those wrong conclusions will be prosecuted at these kangaroo trials."
The move is intended to increase transparency and add a level of independence to prosecuting the cases, including using offensive language, abusing authority or using excessive or unnecessary force. Potential criminal cases will still be handled by the NYPD's Internal Affairs Bureau.
Before the change, complaints were referred to the CCRB for investigation, but were prosecuted by police.
"Today's agreement builds on the cooperative relationship between the NYPD and CCRB that began with a successful pilot program in the prosecution of substantiated cases," said Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, who will retain final discretion about disciplinary decisions, including whether officers should be suspended or placed on alternate assignment during investigations.
Kelly would also be able to circumvent the CCRB in certain cases, where it would be deemed "detrimental to the disciplinary process" and where the officer was either involved in a parallel criminal investigation or had no disciplinary history.
The agreement comes after a 2010 pilot program turned prosecution authority over to the CCRB for the first time.
"Today's agreement expands on our pilot program empowering CCRB prosecutors, strengthening our strong monitoring and regulation of police conduct," Mayor Michael Bloomberg said in a statement. "We expect members of the NYPD to live up to their name — New York's Finest — and I know they will continue to do so."
City Council Speaker Christine Quinn added that she hoped the change would "increase public confidence" in the disciplinary system.
"The public needs to know that when they file a legitimate, serious complaint it will undergo an appropriate process of review and — if substantiated — prosecution," she said.
Under the agreement, the CCRB will establish a new unit of attorneys and staff to lead and prosecute investigations.
East Side City Councilman Daniel Garodnick, who introduced legislation calling on the move in 2010, said that the issue came to his attention because so few cases investigated by the board appeared to end in police discipline.
"It became clear that the NYPD could have been giving more deference to the CCRB's determination," he said.
The move, he added, "helps to create more independence for the CCRB from the police department in pursuing cases of misconduct. It will also give the public more confidence that complaints are being handled properly," he said.