The NYPD and Civilian Complaint Review Board met up in neutral territory Thursday — a historic lower Manhattan church — to sign an agreement that spells out how cops will be punished for misconduct.
Police Commissioner Dermot Shea suggested the “discipline matrix” could serve as a model for departments across the country — even as critics point out that Shea has final say and could deviate from the punishment guidelines.
But the commissioner said he’s committed to winning over New Yorkers who don’t trust the police.
“I believe that can happen with me as the final arbiter,” Shea said. “But I understand and appreciate and trust those discussions that are going on.”
CCRB Chairman Frederick Davie, who sat across from Shea as they signed a memorandum of understanding, had pushed for the watchdog agency to have the final word in cases it prosecutes. That includes allegations of force, abuse of authority, discourtesy and offensive language.
“But that in no way will prevent us from working together to make sure that ... we’ll get the best disciplinary and civilian oversight system for a police department in the country,” said Davie.
While investigating cop misconduct, Davie noted that the CCRB will, for the first time, have access to disciplinary cases it was not involved in, such as investigations by the NYPD Internal Affairs Bureau.
The memorandum of understanding was signed at St. Paul’s Chapel of Trinity Church.
The 57-page disciplinary matrix, announced two weeks ago, spells out penalties for various wrongdoings — such as termination for using a chokehold, or losing several vacation days for an unjustified stop and frisk.
It takes effect for offenses dating to Feb. 1 and will be reassessed after a year.
Police Benevolent Association President Patrick Lynch blasted the agreement Thursday as a “political prop.”
“Police officers want to see fairness and consistency in the NYPD disciplinary process,” he said. “Mayor de Blasio’s use of the NYPD disciplinary matrix as a political prop is the direct opposite of that goal. Rather than allowing police discipline to follow the facts, he is chasing the news cycle and once again making it harder for cops to do our job.”
The deal comes amid a larger push for police reform, with the NYPD budget already slashed by $1 billion and police unions fighting in court against the repeal of 50-a, a state law that has barred the release of officer disciplinary cases.
At the same time, police complaints are down nearly 50% since 2006, with 7,663 that year and 3,875 last year.
Shea noted that of the 34,000 cops on the force, 31,000 don’t have a single substantiated complaint against them — though he acknowledged “one bad incident can cast a very dark shadow and a very long shadow, and it’s a lot to dig out from.”
The new agreement also comes just a week after de Blasio unveiled more police reform measures in his final State of the City address.
Those proposals included expanding the CCRB’s role by allowing the agency to launch investigations without being prompted by a specific complaint, guaranteeing the CCRB timely access to body-worn camera footage and allowing the agency to audit NYPD internal disciplinary measures.
At a separate press briefing Thursday morning, de Blasio described the memorandum of understanding as “historic,” but just “one step” toward reforming the NYPD.
“There will be many others,” he said. “The work of improving the relationship between police and community — it goes on every year, every month, every week, every day.”
With Michael Gartland