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Image courtesy Tony Fischer.

New York Police Department Inspector General Philip Eure has submitted the results of a study on the use of chokeholds by the local police and the subsequent handling of the incidents involving the action. The study, officially submitted to Mayer Bill de Blasio, Police Commissioner William Bratton, and City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, reviewed ten substantiated chokehold complaints ranging from 2009 to 2014. The report, authored by Department of Investigation Commissioner Mark Peters, brings to light a number of “systemic issues” emblematic of a larger problem including:

  • In the period reviewed, Citizens Complaint Review Board (CCRB) and NYPD had incongruous approaches for determining how and when police officers should be held accountable for using chokeholds. NYPD largely rejected CCRB’s findings and recommendations and, thus, mooted CCRB’s role in the process.
  • From the cases examined, the police commissioner routinely rejected CCRB’s disciplinary recommendations in substantiated chokehold cases without explanation.
  • An uneven exchange of information between the Internal Affairs Bureau (IAB) and CCRB with respect to chokehold and other use-of-force complaints, which limits NYPD’s ability to track, screen, and potentially investigate these cases.

In addition, the report found issue with “an informality and inconsistency to these ‘outside guidelines’ (“OG”) investigations, in terms of when they are performed, their scope, and how results are tracked. Greater consistency and coordination within NYPD related to these OG investigations may be desirable.” In the report, the IG’s office commits to conducting a statistically significant universe of case files related to the above issues to determine whether these are “systemic or widespread problems.” Despite the lack of a more thorough study, the report lays out four recommendations for the NYPD and, in part, the CCRB:

  1. Increase coordination and collaboration between NYPD and CCRB to reconsider and refine the disciplinary system for improper uses of force, specifically to ensure that both entities apply consistent standards. Clearly, if CCRB is to add value to the disciplinary process for use-of-force cases, its recommendations must be predictable and consistently enforced.
  2. Ensure that the police commissioner’s disciplinary decisions are reasoned, transparent, and in writing, particularly when they depart from the recommendations of CCRB.
  3. Expand IAB’s access to newly filed complaints and substantive information on use-of-force cases filed with CCRB.
  4. Improve consistency, information sharing, and case tracking for non-FADO (Force, Abuse of Authority, Discourtesy, and Offensive Language) investigations that are outsourced to borough and precinct investigators via OCD (Office of the Chief of Department).

Of the complaints cited, seven were considered for criminal prosecution, while the remaining three were remedied by the CCRB.

On the whole, the report unfolds the city’s systemic shortcomings in investigating excessive force claims as well as reprimanding officers who have been proven to have used excessive force.

Comment from 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement and the Brooklyn NAACP were unavailable at time of publication.

The full report is available on the NYC.gov site.