The NYPD Is Withholding Evidence From Investigations Into Police Abuse

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tags: racism, NYPD, New York, Police


Seventy years ago, a coalition of advocacy groups in New York pushed the city to address “police misconduct in their relations with Puerto Ricans and Negros specifically.”

In response, the city created the Civilian Complaint Review Board. It was a committee of high-ranking police officials.

Police unions have fought ever since to limit the CCRB’s authority and independence. When Mayor John Lindsay moved to put a few civilians on the board in the mid-1960s, police unions organized a ballot measure that rolled back the change. “I’m sick and tired of giving in to minority groups with their whims and their gripes and shouting,” the head of one of the unions said.

Nearly 30 years later, David Dinkins, the city’s first Black mayor, sought to move the CCRB out from under the NYPD. The proposed change stirred union leaders to gather thousands of off-duty officers outside City Hall. Officers, mostly white, stormed through barricades and blocked traffic on the Brooklyn Bridge

“They drained cans of beer and pushed and screamed and shook their fists in the air and shoved people and kicked them and threatened them,” wrote Newsday columnist Jimmy Breslin. “Some waved toilet plungers and others held up a sign saying, ‘Dump the Washroom Attendant.’ This meant the mayor.”

The lawless spectacle generated its own outrage and, in 1993, Dinkins’ changes were enacted, among them granting the CCRB subpoena power.

The law is clear. The agency “may compel the attendance of witnesses and require the production of such records and other materials as are necessary for the investigation of complaints.”

But the hurdles are clear too. Both agencies are represented by the same lawyers: the city’s Law Department. And it’s been the mayor who’s chosen many members of the CCRB’s board, including the chair. (After a city referendum last year changed the setup, the mayor and City Council jointly reappointed the current chair, the Rev. Fred Davie. Davie, who has at times criticized the NYPD’s lack of cooperation, did not respond to requests for comment for this story.)

“The CCRB would need to get permission from the Law Department before they could even serve a subpoena on the police department,” said a current staffer. “It would be a huge deal.” (The staffer declined to be named since they did not have the CCRB’s permission to speak to a reporter.)

Even years ago, getting records from the NYPD “was a constant struggle,” said Finkle, who was the board’s executive director in the mid-2000s. Finkle contrasted the setup with her time later at the city’s Department of Correction, where she oversaw internal investigations. “We had instant access to video and records. You could access it all from your desk. Every investigator. It makes a huge difference.” (Finkle resigned from the Department of Correction after a federal investigation found the oversight there also to be lacking.)


Read entire article at ProPublica

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