The new chair of the Civilian Complaint Review Board, the agency charged with reviewing citizen allegations of misconduct against the NYPD, said last night that a forthcoming study would reveal “troubling” findings about the alleged use of chokeholds by police officers in the city.
Speaking at the board’s monthly meeting, Richard Emery, who took the reins of the organization three months ago, didn’t give many details — or a deadline for the report’s release — but suggested it would be before the public within “a couple” of weeks. The report had been scheduled for release in late August or early September.
The anxiously awaited review, Emery said, is expected to delve into the circumstances surrounding chokehold allegations, to shed light on what kinds of police activities — like stop-and-frisks or the service of arrest warrants — most often lead to the accusations. The report will also attempt to determine whether certain officers are more prone to chokehold allegations than others, and is expected to reveal hotbed precincts with a large volume of complaints. “There were extraordinary differences between precincts,” Emery added. “This is a major and significant report.”
The report is not expected to identify any of the specific officers involved; the vast majority of work the CCRB does is confidential under New York State law, which provides broad protection for police performance- and misconduct-related information.
The meeting, which took place in Staten Island, reflected some early changes at an agency many view as dysfunctional, including Emery.
The fact that it took place outside of Manhattan is a significant departure, part of an initiative that will bring more of the board’s meetings into the outer boroughs. The move is designed to help address the persistent complaint that the CCRB is too often inaccessible, ensconced in its Church Street headquarters, where monthly meetings typically take place. In another shift, last night’s session also began at 6:30 p.m., rather than at 3 p.m., as has been the case in the past. Earlier start times are aimed at making it easier for working people to make it out for meetings that are often sparsely attended.
Lasting well past 9 p.m., the meeting was held only a few blocks from the site where 43-year-old Staten Island man Eric Garner died during an encounter with police in July. A video of the incident showed an NYPD officer apparently using a chokehold to subdue Garner — a maneuver that has been banned by NYPD policy for more than two decades — and set off demonstrations and widespread anger at the department.
Intense criticism fell on the CCRB in the wake of Garner’s death, when the board revealed that it had collected more than a thousand complaints about chokehold use between 2009 and 2013, but hadn’t released the information to the public, or even communicated its findings to the NYPD.
Emery, a longtime civil rights lawyer and former staff attorney with the New York Civil Liberties Union, has been bluntly critical of the CCRB’s past performance since taking office, and has promised an aggressive overhaul of the agency.
Watch the meeting below: