NYCLU: Nobody’s Policing the Police


According to the NYCLU, of the 1,076 police officers who were referred to an administrative trial to face charges between 1998 and 2004, approximately 63 percent received no discipline.
Photo by Surburban Cowboy via Flickr

The title of the New York Civil Liberties Union report on the Civilian Complaint Review Board says it all: “Mission Failure: Civilian Review of Policing in New York City, 1994-2006.” The NYCLU says the CCRB is failing in its City Charter-mandated mission to undertake “complete, thorough and impartial” investigations of police misconduct complaints brought by civilians.

According to the NYCLU:

The report finds that the reasons for the CCRB’s failure are fundamental: lack of commitment to the principle of civilian review, obstructionism by the police department, little support from public officials and inadequate human and financial resources.

The report says the CCRB closes more cases without an investigation today than it did in years past. “The CCRB has historically closed about 50 percent of police-misconduct complaints without initiating an investigation; between 2002 and 2005 the “truncation” rate increased to 55 percent. In 2006 the CCRB closed 60 percent of all complaints without undertaking an investigation,” the report said.

A spokesman for the CCRB said some of the reports findings— a lack of cooperation from the NYPD, for example— are legitimate. But CCRB spokesman Andrew Case the NYCLU used some statistics improperly to “unfairly malign the CCRB.”

Today the NYCLU stated that the CCRB substantiates 5% of its total cases, calling the figure “well below the naional average” of 10-12%. They arrived at this figure by comparing apples to oranges — the total cases the CCRB substantiates divided by the total cases received in a year, even those it is unable to investigate.

The following data show similar figures for the two next largest Civilian Oversight investigative agencies, in DC and San Francisco (LA and Chicago have no civilian investigative oversight agencies):

DC Office of Police Complaints:
2006 total complaints: 435
Total substantiated: 13
percent substantiated: 2.9%

San Francisco Office of Civilian Complaints
Jan-June 2007 total investigations completed: 1,290
Jan-June 2007 total complaints substantiated: 15
percent: 1.1%

When agencies are compared nationwide on an equal footing, the CCRB’s substantiation rate is in fact higher than average.