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May 6, 2022

NYPD commissioner OK's misconduct case for officer who killed Delrawn Small in 2016


NYPD Commissioner Keechant Sewell will allow the city’s police oversight agency to move forward with disciplinary proceedings for police misconduct against Wayne Isaacs, an NYPD officer involved in the shooting death of 37-year-old Delrawn Small in 2016.

Sewell’s decision came in response to a request submitted to the police commissioner by Isaacs’ police union attorney Steve Worth in March, calling on her to block the Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB) from pursuing a disciplinary trial against the officer.

While Small’s death has received less attention than other high-profile police killings, he was one of a number of Black men killed by law enforcement officers in the summer of 2016, including Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and Philando Castile in Saint Paul, Minnesota. All three men were killed between July 4th and July 6th of that year.

A spokesperson for the CCRB said the agency received a letter notifying it of the commissioner’s decision. Small’s siblings, Victoria Davis and Victor Dempsey, released a joint statement saying they had also been notified on Thursday.

“We are relieved to finally learn that the NYPD rejected the police union's ridiculous request to remove the Civilian Complaint Review Board from the discipline prosecution of Officer Wayne Isaacs,” Davis and Dempsey said.

According to court documents, Officer Isaacs was off-duty when he shot Small, an unarmed Black man, three times during a traffic dispute at the corner of Atlantic Avenue and Bradford Street in Brooklyn. Isaacs was in his personal vehicle at the time and claimed he felt threatened after Small got out of his car and assaulted him, though that claim was contradicted by security camera footage. Small was killed in front of his 4-month old baby, teenage step-daughter and his girlfriend.

The case against officer Isaacs, who is also Black, has taken several turns since Small’s death. Isaacs was found not guilty of murder and manslaughter charges in a criminal trial in 2017. Small’s family then filed a complaint with the CCRB alleging police misconduct in 2018.

Isaacs’ request to halt the CCRB’s prosecution of the case was raised in the agency’s monthly board meeting in April.

“After a full investigation, the CCRB substantiated misconduct against Officer Isaacs – one allegation that Police Officer Isaacs used excessive force when he shot Mr. Small,” said CCRB Executive Director Jonathan Darche during the meeting, adding that the agency filed charges against Isaacs in October of 2020.

Isaac’s police union attorneys then asked the Supreme Court of New York County to stop those proceedings, which the court denied. His lawyer’s last-ditch request to Commissioner Sewell was based on a 2012 memorandum of understanding between the police department and the CCRB that, according to Darche, allows the commissioner to intervene in cases where the officer either has no disciplinary history or where there are “parallel or related criminal investigations.”

Darche likened Isaac’s attorney’s request to a motion to dismiss in a criminal trial.

Now that the CCRB’s disciplinary trial can proceed, questions remain over whether the oversight agency can gain access to sealed records used in the criminal case against Isaacs.

Darche said the CCRB filed a motion to unseal those records in October 2021. New York Attorney General Letitia James joined the agency’s application, but it is still pending, according to an agency spokesperson.

“Much of the information in this case is sealed because Officer Isaacs was acquitted in the criminal trial,” Darche said at the April board meeting, adding that the case is an example of why the CCRB has advocated to be generally exempt from the state’s sealing statutes.

“Isaacs murdered our brother,” Small’s family members said in their written statement this week. “Isaacs should have already been fired, and it's outrageous that the police union continues to play games. The discipline trial of Officer Wayne Isaacs should be scheduled as soon as possible, and he should be fired for the safety of all New Yorkers.”

A CCRB spokesperson said the case will now move to the agency’s Administrative Prosecution Unit, which hears the most serious cases of police misconduct in front of the department’s Deputy Commissioner of Trials. Officers can face loss of vacation days, suspension without pay and termination from the department.

“Our investigation found that Officer Isaacs committed misconduct when he fatally shot Delrawn Small,” the oversight agency said in a statement provided to Gothamist. “We are confident that our APU prosecutors will successfully prove this in court.”

Asked to weigh in on the case, an NYPD spokesperson pointed to the police commissioner’s ultimate authority to discipline officers as she sees fit.

In a statement provided by the Police Benevolent Association (PBA), whose attorney represents Isaacs, PBA President Patrick Lynch criticized the civilian review board.

“CCRB has nothing new to add to Isaacs’ case, which has already been fully investigated and adjudicated by the NYPD,” Lynch said. “The police officer was also acquitted by a Brooklyn jury. CCRB is simply looking for a third bite at the apple in order to justify their bloated budget and advance their anti-cop agenda.”

Inquires to Mayor Eric Adams' office were not returned.