Gotham Gazette Gotham Gazette is an online publication covering New York policy and politics as well as news on public safety, transportation, education, finance and more. https://www.gothamgazette.com/component/tags/tag/ccrb 2019-12-15T08:00:18+00:00 Webmaster webmaster@gothamgazette.com NYPD's New Agreement with Police Oversight Board Promises Better Access to Body Camera Footage 2019-12-04T05:00:00+00:00 2019-12-04T05:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8955-nypd-new-agreement-police-oversight-board-promises-better-access-to-body-camera-footage-ccrb Ben Max <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/34738336890_a2e95cbbe8_c.jpg" alt="de Blasio NYPD leaders" width="600" height="401" /></p> <p>(photo: Ed Reed/Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>A new evidence-sharing agreement between the NYPD and its civilian watchdog agency around the department’s handling of police body-worn camera footage has the potential to significantly change the way misconduct investigations are carried out. But despite the NYPD’s recent commitment to greater transparency and cooperation, to be successful the agreement will require an element of trust in an interagency relationship marked by obfuscation and obstruction.</p> <p>Under the new agreement, the Civilian Complaint Review Board will have more direct access to body camera video, which officials say will dramatically improve its ability to pursue police officer misconduct allegations. But the agreement also hints at the ongoing imbalance among the police department, the CCRB, and the public in terms of who controls footage captured by a system meant to make officers more accountable and policing more transparent.</p> <p>In November, after months of negotiation, the NYPD and CCRB announced a memorandum of understanding establishing an intricate process that will allow officials from both agencies to view requested body camera video together without redaction, before it is subject to editing by the police department. The announcement closely followed a City Council oversight hearing and <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/component/tags/tag/body-cameras" target="_blank" rel="noopener">a series of articles</a> by Gotham Gazette on the body camera program, including several <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8928-reasons-nypd-wont-provide-body-camera-video-to-oversight-board-ccrb" target="_blank" rel="noopener">on the CCRB’s struggle to obtain necessary footage</a>.</p> <p>“It is a real compromise and it’s going to let the CCRB do its job and provide effective, independent oversight of the NYPD,” said CCRB Executive Director Jonathan Darche in an interview with Gotham Gazette.</p> <p>The CCRB is an oversight agency appointed by the mayor in partnership with the City Council and police commissioner to investigate civilian complaints related to excessive force and abuses of police authority, among other defined types of officer misconduct. The proliferation of body cameras across the police force gave advocates, reformers, and others hope that more misconduct claims could be verified or definitively dismissed.</p> <p>In March, Mayor Bill de Blasio and then-Police Commissioner James O’Neill announced the full implementation of 20,000 officer-worn cameras to rank-and-file cops, and another 3,000-4,000 were handed out to specialized divisions later in the year.</p> <p>Around the same time, the backlog of CCRB video inquiries skyrocketed and the number of the agency’s cases with pending requests roughly doubled. While CCRB investigators are relying more on evidence from the cameras to help substantiate claims, they are also having a harder time obtaining the footage. When they do, the footage is often censored or cut by the police department. In dozens of substantiated instances, the NYPD has falsely denied to the CCRB that it has body camera footage the Board has requested.</p> <p>The new agreement calls on the city to create a “secure room” within CCRB headquarters that will function as an NYPD facility with access to the department’s BWC database. When CCRB investigators request footage, a representative will be present in the secure room while police officials search their system. That representative will be allowed to pass on notes about the raw video to CCRB investigators who can then request specific sections of tape. Once a narrowly described section of video is requested and subjected to NYPD editing, it can be shared outside the secure room.</p> <p>“From neighborhood policing to body cameras for all patrol officers, this Administration has led a paradigm shift in the way our city is policed. We applaud the Police Department and Civilian Complaint Review Board for cutting red tape and working together to promote transparency and accountability,” wrote Olivia Lapeyrolerie, a spokesperson for Mayor Bill de Blasio, in an email.</p> <p>The change is likely a big step forward for the police watchdog. Under the current system, the NYPD acts as the sole owner of body camera footage with complete discretion to censor and redact footage and the ability to delay releasing it to the CCRB from the outset. Officials say the new approach allows the CCRB to monitor the video transfer process from as close to the beginning as possible (once an inquiry is made). It also helps deter “false negatives” in which the NYPD denies the existence of footage in its possession, an ongoing concern and repeat problem for the CCRB.</p> <p>In <a href="https://gothamist.com/news/nypd-agrees-give-ccrb-more-access-body-camera-video-not-most-sensitive-cases" target="_blank" rel="noopener">the most serious cases</a> of excessive police force, the NYPD may still “lockdown” footage if it is part of an internal inquiry by the department’s Force Investigation Division. Footage under lockdown will be searchable by a CCRB rep but not shared with CCRB investigators until after the NYPD division’s investigation is concluded.</p> <p>To the extent that it outlines the parameters for interagency body camera video sharing, the agreement is an acknowledgement of the NYPD’s de facto ownership of body camera technology and the evidence it records. It still leaves the NYPD with ultimate access to the secure room and the footage database, unlike in <a href="https://www.wnyc.org/story/police-misconduct-body-worn-camera-videos-slow-come/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">other jurisdictions</a> where the oversight body has direct access to video without having to go through the police department.</p> <p>"While the latest MOU between the NYPD and CCRB may provide quicker access to some footage for the CCRB, it cements the NYPD's unilateral control of footage, including the ability to redact and restrict footage as it sees fit,” wrote Kesi Foster, a spokesperson for Communities United for Police Reform, an advocacy coalition, in a statement to Gotham Gazette.</p> <p>“The MOU makes no explicit allowances for survivors of police violence or their families to view footage and allows the NYPD to block CCRB access to footage in serious cases where excessive force is used - which are the exact cases that the public and CCRB should have immediate and unfettered access to footage,” Foster wrote.</p> <p>Since the complete rollout of body-worn cameras, the NYPD has reserved the right to edit footage before release to the CCRB and the broader public (including the news media), saying state and federal privacy laws require it to do so (an <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8896-nypd-releases-body-camera-footage-policy" target="_blank">NYPD policy memo</a> issued in October, explicitly states this for release to the public, but not to the CCRB). The result has been a growing backlog of unfulfilled body camera footage requests to the CCRB that hamper its investigations, which need to be completed within an 18-month statute of limitations.</p> <p>As of the end of October, the CCRB reported 574 cases (27 percent of all its investigations) in which body camera footage requests had not been fulfilled by the NYPD. Over half of those requests have been pending for more than 30 days.</p> <p>The backlog and the NYPD’s ability to edit footage before turning it over to the CCRB have created a system where investigators are limited in what evidence they have access to, even when they are aware material footage exists. By contrast, the NYPD shares video of an arrest with prosecutors <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8880-nypd-body-camera-footage-district-attorneys-ccrb" target="_blank">completely and almost immediately</a>, suggesting that the new technology is being used more to prosecute civilians than investigate police misconduct.</p> <p>The November agreement is a step away from that status quo. It creates certain checks on the NYPD’s ability to withhold or delay footage and improves trust in the body-worn cameras program as a police oversight system.</p> <p>“There are a few takeaways from the agreement. The first is it’s going to significantly reduce the backlog once it’s fully implemented. The second is that it assures the CCRB that we are receiving all the relevant video in a case,” said Darche.</p> <p>“It also takes the NYPD’s security concerns into account, and it assures civilians and members of the NYPD that their privacy rights won’t be violated,” he added.</p> <p>The NYPD has maintained that, for releasing video to either the CCRB or the public, it must edit footage to ensure legally protected subject matter isn’t publicly disseminated. Police representatives have said the identities of minors and victims or survivors of sex crimes must be censored and any depiction of medical treatment redacted, pursuant to statutory privacy protections. Reviewing and editing footage is what causes the delays in transmitting evidence to the CCRB, officials say.</p> <p>“One of the areas in dispute was the NYPD felt those statutes applied. We did not feel that those applied. The NYPD felt that blurring the faces of people allowed them to then release the video to us and that was a compromise we were willing to accept,” Darche said, referring to part of the agreement that deals with footage being shared outside the secure room.</p> <p>The new agreement puts much more onus on the CCRB to request only the relevant footage as a way to reduce the burden on the NYPD to process the video. CCRB investigators will be required to “diligently conduct as many investigatory steps as reasonable” to determine whether potential video is relevant to their investigation before making a footage request, rather than submitting blanket requests for all potentially relevant footage.</p> <p>“Under this agreement, CCRB investigators will obtain relevant records such as an arrest or summons associated with complaints prior to making a body-worn camera footage request, in order to make the search and viewing processes more efficient,” wrote Ethan Teicher, the CCRB press secretary, in an email to Gotham Gazette.</p> <p>The additional costs to staff new positions in the secure room and to meet the additional investigatory requirements are yet to be determined, but officials think it will ultimately improve the process and lead to better, more coherent video searches.</p> <p>Examining the raw footage “will be a shared responsibility between the NYPD and the CCRB, and it is the CCRB’s hope that involving Agency staff in the initial review of body-worn camera footage will provide additional, case-based knowledge that will make the process more efficient,” Teicher wrote.</p> <p>“The CCRB will need to work with OMB [the Office of Management and Budget] and DCAS [Department of Citywide Administrative Services] for additional funding for the secure space. Initially, we expect both the NYPD and the CCRB to each have four staff members in the room, while the other terminals will be used by investigators tasked with reviewing the footage,” he added. The agency currently has roughly 100 investigators, according to a CCRB spokesperson in October.</p> <p>In addition to a backlog of video request, the CCRB has reported a large number of false negatives in responses to requests for body camera video. In a July memo to CCRB board members, staff cited 147 cases where the police department said requested footage did not exist only to find out later that it did. In some cases the denied footage was leaked to the press, and in others officers under investigation reported reviewing footage that was previously said not to exist. As of July, the NYPD had acknowledged accidental false negatives in 19 cases, according to the memo.</p> <p>“[T]he CCRB cannot accurately track the number of cases in which it received ‘false negatives’...because the Agency does not know what video the NYPD possess,” the memo stated.</p> <p>The CCRB believes the new agreement changes that dynamic. “Having a presence in the secure room when a search is conducted should reduce the chance of generating a false negative,” Darche told Gotham Gazette.</p> <p>While the agreement makes a commitment to involve the CCRB in the initial search for requested footage, it still establishes a lopsided relationship with the NYPD.</p> <p>A footage search must be conducted by a member of the NYPD in the presence of a CCRB representative. Yet nothing under the agreement prevents the NYPD from accessing the secure room outside of established business hours, and allows the department to audit CCRB electronic access to the system. On the other hand, the CCRB will only have access to the room during agreed-upon hours and does not have the ability to audit the NYPD’s use of the room.</p> <p>“As the secure room will be an NYPD facility, the Department will have access to it outside of business hours. However, the CCRB does not expect NYPD personnel will use the facility to work on CCRB-related matters without CCRB present,” Teicher wrote.</p> <p>“The CCRB will not at this time be able to audit the logins at the secure facility,” he added. “If an issue is ever raised, the CCRB will make every effort to work with the Department to resolve it.”</p> <p>The agreement does not go into effect until the secure room is built, after which other protocols will be established. The text of the agreement does not specify a timeline for that.</p> <p>“We will continue to work with OMB and DCAS to secure the necessary funding for the facility, and hope to have it set up in the first half of 2020,” wrote a CCRB spokesperson in an email.</p> <p>In an email to Gotham Gazette, Chris Dunn, legal director of the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU), wrote of the new MOU, “we are concerned about how long it will take to get the new system up and running and about how much time this agreement gives the NYPD to turn over videos. A police department as sophisticated as the NYPD should be able to deliver videos in a matter of hours, not weeks.”</p> <p>The agreement was hashed out under the administration of former Police Commissioner James O’Neill over weeks or months in the lead up to its announcement in November, which was <a href="https://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/nyc-crime/ny-nypd-ccrb-body-camera-footage-20191122-sgcwbctvbzafpnyrq4v5yawyn4-story.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">first reported</a> by the Daily News. It will have to be implemented under his successor, Dermot Shea, who was sworn in at the beginning of December after serving as Chief of Detectives, among other roles at the NYPD.</p> <p>“I am confident this agreement between the CCRB and the NYPD will be preserved under incoming Police Commissioner Dermot Shea. This compromise is a step toward significantly reducing the body-worn camera backlog, ensuring police accountability, and allowing the CCRB to carry out its essential public safety mission on behalf of all New Yorkers,” CCRB Chair Fred Davie wrote in an email.</p> <p>

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by Ethan Geringer-Sameth, reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/34738336890_a2e95cbbe8_c.jpg" alt="de Blasio NYPD leaders" width="600" height="401" /></p> <p>(photo: Ed Reed/Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>A new evidence-sharing agreement between the NYPD and its civilian watchdog agency around the department’s handling of police body-worn camera footage has the potential to significantly change the way misconduct investigations are carried out. But despite the NYPD’s recent commitment to greater transparency and cooperation, to be successful the agreement will require an element of trust in an interagency relationship marked by obfuscation and obstruction.</p> <p>Under the new agreement, the Civilian Complaint Review Board will have more direct access to body camera video, which officials say will dramatically improve its ability to pursue police officer misconduct allegations. But the agreement also hints at the ongoing imbalance among the police department, the CCRB, and the public in terms of who controls footage captured by a system meant to make officers more accountable and policing more transparent.</p> <p>In November, after months of negotiation, the NYPD and CCRB announced a memorandum of understanding establishing an intricate process that will allow officials from both agencies to view requested body camera video together without redaction, before it is subject to editing by the police department. The announcement closely followed a City Council oversight hearing and <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/component/tags/tag/body-cameras" target="_blank" rel="noopener">a series of articles</a> by Gotham Gazette on the body camera program, including several <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8928-reasons-nypd-wont-provide-body-camera-video-to-oversight-board-ccrb" target="_blank" rel="noopener">on the CCRB’s struggle to obtain necessary footage</a>.</p> <p>“It is a real compromise and it’s going to let the CCRB do its job and provide effective, independent oversight of the NYPD,” said CCRB Executive Director Jonathan Darche in an interview with Gotham Gazette.</p> <p>The CCRB is an oversight agency appointed by the mayor in partnership with the City Council and police commissioner to investigate civilian complaints related to excessive force and abuses of police authority, among other defined types of officer misconduct. The proliferation of body cameras across the police force gave advocates, reformers, and others hope that more misconduct claims could be verified or definitively dismissed.</p> <p>In March, Mayor Bill de Blasio and then-Police Commissioner James O’Neill announced the full implementation of 20,000 officer-worn cameras to rank-and-file cops, and another 3,000-4,000 were handed out to specialized divisions later in the year.</p> <p>Around the same time, the backlog of CCRB video inquiries skyrocketed and the number of the agency’s cases with pending requests roughly doubled. While CCRB investigators are relying more on evidence from the cameras to help substantiate claims, they are also having a harder time obtaining the footage. When they do, the footage is often censored or cut by the police department. In dozens of substantiated instances, the NYPD has falsely denied to the CCRB that it has body camera footage the Board has requested.</p> <p>The new agreement calls on the city to create a “secure room” within CCRB headquarters that will function as an NYPD facility with access to the department’s BWC database. When CCRB investigators request footage, a representative will be present in the secure room while police officials search their system. That representative will be allowed to pass on notes about the raw video to CCRB investigators who can then request specific sections of tape. Once a narrowly described section of video is requested and subjected to NYPD editing, it can be shared outside the secure room.</p> <p>“From neighborhood policing to body cameras for all patrol officers, this Administration has led a paradigm shift in the way our city is policed. We applaud the Police Department and Civilian Complaint Review Board for cutting red tape and working together to promote transparency and accountability,” wrote Olivia Lapeyrolerie, a spokesperson for Mayor Bill de Blasio, in an email.</p> <p>The change is likely a big step forward for the police watchdog. Under the current system, the NYPD acts as the sole owner of body camera footage with complete discretion to censor and redact footage and the ability to delay releasing it to the CCRB from the outset. Officials say the new approach allows the CCRB to monitor the video transfer process from as close to the beginning as possible (once an inquiry is made). It also helps deter “false negatives” in which the NYPD denies the existence of footage in its possession, an ongoing concern and repeat problem for the CCRB.</p> <p>In <a href="https://gothamist.com/news/nypd-agrees-give-ccrb-more-access-body-camera-video-not-most-sensitive-cases" target="_blank" rel="noopener">the most serious cases</a> of excessive police force, the NYPD may still “lockdown” footage if it is part of an internal inquiry by the department’s Force Investigation Division. Footage under lockdown will be searchable by a CCRB rep but not shared with CCRB investigators until after the NYPD division’s investigation is concluded.</p> <p>To the extent that it outlines the parameters for interagency body camera video sharing, the agreement is an acknowledgement of the NYPD’s de facto ownership of body camera technology and the evidence it records. It still leaves the NYPD with ultimate access to the secure room and the footage database, unlike in <a href="https://www.wnyc.org/story/police-misconduct-body-worn-camera-videos-slow-come/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">other jurisdictions</a> where the oversight body has direct access to video without having to go through the police department.</p> <p>"While the latest MOU between the NYPD and CCRB may provide quicker access to some footage for the CCRB, it cements the NYPD's unilateral control of footage, including the ability to redact and restrict footage as it sees fit,” wrote Kesi Foster, a spokesperson for Communities United for Police Reform, an advocacy coalition, in a statement to Gotham Gazette.</p> <p>“The MOU makes no explicit allowances for survivors of police violence or their families to view footage and allows the NYPD to block CCRB access to footage in serious cases where excessive force is used - which are the exact cases that the public and CCRB should have immediate and unfettered access to footage,” Foster wrote.</p> <p>Since the complete rollout of body-worn cameras, the NYPD has reserved the right to edit footage before release to the CCRB and the broader public (including the news media), saying state and federal privacy laws require it to do so (an <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8896-nypd-releases-body-camera-footage-policy" target="_blank">NYPD policy memo</a> issued in October, explicitly states this for release to the public, but not to the CCRB). The result has been a growing backlog of unfulfilled body camera footage requests to the CCRB that hamper its investigations, which need to be completed within an 18-month statute of limitations.</p> <p>As of the end of October, the CCRB reported 574 cases (27 percent of all its investigations) in which body camera footage requests had not been fulfilled by the NYPD. Over half of those requests have been pending for more than 30 days.</p> <p>The backlog and the NYPD’s ability to edit footage before turning it over to the CCRB have created a system where investigators are limited in what evidence they have access to, even when they are aware material footage exists. By contrast, the NYPD shares video of an arrest with prosecutors <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8880-nypd-body-camera-footage-district-attorneys-ccrb" target="_blank">completely and almost immediately</a>, suggesting that the new technology is being used more to prosecute civilians than investigate police misconduct.</p> <p>The November agreement is a step away from that status quo. It creates certain checks on the NYPD’s ability to withhold or delay footage and improves trust in the body-worn cameras program as a police oversight system.</p> <p>“There are a few takeaways from the agreement. The first is it’s going to significantly reduce the backlog once it’s fully implemented. The second is that it assures the CCRB that we are receiving all the relevant video in a case,” said Darche.</p> <p>“It also takes the NYPD’s security concerns into account, and it assures civilians and members of the NYPD that their privacy rights won’t be violated,” he added.</p> <p>The NYPD has maintained that, for releasing video to either the CCRB or the public, it must edit footage to ensure legally protected subject matter isn’t publicly disseminated. Police representatives have said the identities of minors and victims or survivors of sex crimes must be censored and any depiction of medical treatment redacted, pursuant to statutory privacy protections. Reviewing and editing footage is what causes the delays in transmitting evidence to the CCRB, officials say.</p> <p>“One of the areas in dispute was the NYPD felt those statutes applied. We did not feel that those applied. The NYPD felt that blurring the faces of people allowed them to then release the video to us and that was a compromise we were willing to accept,” Darche said, referring to part of the agreement that deals with footage being shared outside the secure room.</p> <p>The new agreement puts much more onus on the CCRB to request only the relevant footage as a way to reduce the burden on the NYPD to process the video. CCRB investigators will be required to “diligently conduct as many investigatory steps as reasonable” to determine whether potential video is relevant to their investigation before making a footage request, rather than submitting blanket requests for all potentially relevant footage.</p> <p>“Under this agreement, CCRB investigators will obtain relevant records such as an arrest or summons associated with complaints prior to making a body-worn camera footage request, in order to make the search and viewing processes more efficient,” wrote Ethan Teicher, the CCRB press secretary, in an email to Gotham Gazette.</p> <p>The additional costs to staff new positions in the secure room and to meet the additional investigatory requirements are yet to be determined, but officials think it will ultimately improve the process and lead to better, more coherent video searches.</p> <p>Examining the raw footage “will be a shared responsibility between the NYPD and the CCRB, and it is the CCRB’s hope that involving Agency staff in the initial review of body-worn camera footage will provide additional, case-based knowledge that will make the process more efficient,” Teicher wrote.</p> <p>“The CCRB will need to work with OMB [the Office of Management and Budget] and DCAS [Department of Citywide Administrative Services] for additional funding for the secure space. Initially, we expect both the NYPD and the CCRB to each have four staff members in the room, while the other terminals will be used by investigators tasked with reviewing the footage,” he added. The agency currently has roughly 100 investigators, according to a CCRB spokesperson in October.</p> <p>In addition to a backlog of video request, the CCRB has reported a large number of false negatives in responses to requests for body camera video. In a July memo to CCRB board members, staff cited 147 cases where the police department said requested footage did not exist only to find out later that it did. In some cases the denied footage was leaked to the press, and in others officers under investigation reported reviewing footage that was previously said not to exist. As of July, the NYPD had acknowledged accidental false negatives in 19 cases, according to the memo.</p> <p>“[T]he CCRB cannot accurately track the number of cases in which it received ‘false negatives’...because the Agency does not know what video the NYPD possess,” the memo stated.</p> <p>The CCRB believes the new agreement changes that dynamic. “Having a presence in the secure room when a search is conducted should reduce the chance of generating a false negative,” Darche told Gotham Gazette.</p> <p>While the agreement makes a commitment to involve the CCRB in the initial search for requested footage, it still establishes a lopsided relationship with the NYPD.</p> <p>A footage search must be conducted by a member of the NYPD in the presence of a CCRB representative. Yet nothing under the agreement prevents the NYPD from accessing the secure room outside of established business hours, and allows the department to audit CCRB electronic access to the system. On the other hand, the CCRB will only have access to the room during agreed-upon hours and does not have the ability to audit the NYPD’s use of the room.</p> <p>“As the secure room will be an NYPD facility, the Department will have access to it outside of business hours. However, the CCRB does not expect NYPD personnel will use the facility to work on CCRB-related matters without CCRB present,” Teicher wrote.</p> <p>“The CCRB will not at this time be able to audit the logins at the secure facility,” he added. “If an issue is ever raised, the CCRB will make every effort to work with the Department to resolve it.”</p> <p>The agreement does not go into effect until the secure room is built, after which other protocols will be established. The text of the agreement does not specify a timeline for that.</p> <p>“We will continue to work with OMB and DCAS to secure the necessary funding for the facility, and hope to have it set up in the first half of 2020,” wrote a CCRB spokesperson in an email.</p> <p>In an email to Gotham Gazette, Chris Dunn, legal director of the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU), wrote of the new MOU, “we are concerned about how long it will take to get the new system up and running and about how much time this agreement gives the NYPD to turn over videos. A police department as sophisticated as the NYPD should be able to deliver videos in a matter of hours, not weeks.”</p> <p>The agreement was hashed out under the administration of former Police Commissioner James O’Neill over weeks or months in the lead up to its announcement in November, which was <a href="https://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/nyc-crime/ny-nypd-ccrb-body-camera-footage-20191122-sgcwbctvbzafpnyrq4v5yawyn4-story.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">first reported</a> by the Daily News. It will have to be implemented under his successor, Dermot Shea, who was sworn in at the beginning of December after serving as Chief of Detectives, among other roles at the NYPD.</p> <p>“I am confident this agreement between the CCRB and the NYPD will be preserved under incoming Police Commissioner Dermot Shea. This compromise is a step toward significantly reducing the body-worn camera backlog, ensuring police accountability, and allowing the CCRB to carry out its essential public safety mission on behalf of all New Yorkers,” CCRB Chair Fred Davie wrote in an email.</p> <p>

***
by Ethan Geringer-Sameth, reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
Turnout, Ballot Questions, & Dropoff: How New York City Voted in 2019 2019-11-21T05:00:00+00:00 2019-11-21T05:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8931-turnout-ballot-questions-how-new-york-city-voted-in-2019 Ben Max <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/30787897328_6a3c4da1ba_c.jpg" alt="voting new york city" width="600" height="401" /></p> <p>(photo: Michael Appleton/Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>A year after the 2018 election cycle, when insurgent candidates and heightened political participation helped drive a wave of New Yorkers to the polls, voter turnout in the city this fall continued the trend. While still low as a percentage of registered voters, the 15 percent turnout was far higher than previous off-year elections.</p> <p>While many attribute the recent increases in voter participation to a Trump effect, the particulars of this year’s city ballot, including key items not present in the corresponding cycle four years ago, may also have had an effect: a citywide Public Advocate election and five ballot questions offering New Yorkers the chance to approve or reject changes to city elections and governance.</p> <p>Yet while the series of proposed city charter amendments may have motivated some voters to the polls, new analysis shows the questions did not generate as much interest as the public advocate candidates at the top (and front) of the ballot.</p> <p>New maps created by Steven Romalewski, director of the Mapping Service at the Center for Urban Research, CUNY Graduate Center, using voter turnout data from the New York City Board of Elections show that, while turnout was relatively high across the board, there was significant drop-off from the top and front of the ballot -- where candidate races are listed -- to the ballot proposals on the back.</p> <p>Romalewski’s analysis also shows the places where turnout was highest (Upper West Side, Brooklyn Heights, and Park Slope) and lowest (parts of the southern Bronx and southern Brooklyn) and illustrates where voters seemed especially motivated to vote on the charter changes.</p> <p>Of the nearly 4.8 million active registered voters in New York City, 15 percent went to the polls over the two weeks they were open this fall, according to still-unofficial city turnout data and the most recent state voter registration numbers released at the beginning of November. By comparison, in the 2015 general election turnout was just 6 percent, <a href="https://www.nyccfb.info/chart/VAAC-report-2015/index.html#/Borough/2015">according to the New York City Campaign Finance Board</a>, though there was no citywide race or charter amendments on the ballot that year.</p> <p>The increased turnout follows an <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8494-more-like-a-presidential-year-report-details-extent-of-2018-new-york-voter-turnout-boom">election</a> last year where turnout was uncommonly high at 39.1 percent, according to the Campaign Finance Board. It also coincides with a number of long-sought voting reforms passed by the State Legislature after Democrats took control of both chambers following the so-called “blue wave” elections of 2018. Among them was early voting, a change advocates argued would improve access to the ballot box, which went into effect this fall. For the first time, city voters had the opportunity to vote early at 61 assigned poll sites over the course of nine days leading up to Election Day, November 5, when thousands of traditional poll sites opened citywide.</p> <p>The highest profile race this fall was for public advocate, the only citywide elected office on the ballot, where Democratic incumbent Jumaane Williams beat Republican City Council Member Joe Borelli and Libertarian nominee Devin Balkind to keep the seat he had won earlier this year in a nonpartisan special election.</p> <p>Williams won handily with nearly 78 percent of the vote in a city where registered Democrats outnumber Republicans close to seven to one. In addition to Williams’ race, as well as a City Council contest to fill the seat he vacated and a handful of judicial races, the ballot contained the five referenda encompassing 19 charter amendments put forward by the 2019 Charter Revision Commission.</p> <p>Voters overwhelmingly approved all five questions, with the 19 proposals dealing with elections and governance, by between 71 and 77 percent.</p> <p>In five maps provided to Gotham Gazette, Romalewski breaks down turnout data and ballot referenda voting by Assembly district using unofficial election night results in which roughly nine out of ten ballot scanners were counted. Official results are expected to be certified soon.</p> <p>In the areas with the highest turnout, like the Upper West Side, Brooklyn Heights, and Park Slope, nearly 24 percent of registered voters cast ballots for public advocate, according to the analysis. The neighborhoods with the lowest turnout, like the West Bronx, Mott Haven, Parkchester, and Bensonhurst saw just 10 percent or less of registered voters go to the polls (see map below).</p> <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/pubadv_roma_map.jpg" alt="pubadv roma map" width="400" style="display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;" /></p> <p>The Upper West Side and Brooklyn Heights saw close to the same high turnout on proposal 5 as they did for public advocate -- 22.4 percent (see map below). But much larger regions had turnout rates of 10 percent or less: all but three Bronx Assembly districts fall into this category, as well as Corona, East Elmhurst, and Flushing, Queens.</p> <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/prop5_roma_map.jpg" alt="prop5 roma map" width="400" style="display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;" /></p> <p>A vast majority of Assembly districts saw drop-off of between 1,000 and 2,889 votes from the top of the ballot to the back of it. The districts that saw the smallest drop-off -- under 1,000 votes -- were in parts of Lower Manhattan, the Upper East Side, Williamsburg and parts of the borough’s southern tier. The worst drop-off was in Upper Manhattan, the South Bronx, Eastern Queens, and parts of Central Brooklyn.</p> <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/patoprop5_roma_map.jpg" alt="patoprop5 roma map" width="400" height="368" style="display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;" /></p> <p>Despite what then-Public Advocate Letitia James described in July 2018 as “a rare opportunity to fundamentally change the future of our City” when the charter commission was empanelled through her legislation with Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, a number of factors may have contributed to the drop-off on ballot proposals by the time the votes were cast.</p> <p>Among them are the miniscule, <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8869-the-fine-print-on-your-ballot-charter-questions">7.5-point font</a> the ballot questions were printed in and the large amount of detail contained in each one. Another might be the <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8874-do-new-yorkers-know-about-the-ballot-questions-charter-revision">limited public education</a> conducted by government agencies in the run-up to the early voting period, or the fact that many of the city’s most prominent officials did not <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8876-top-city-officials-who-appointed-the-2019-charter-revision-commission-stand-proposals-de-blasio-johnson">express positions</a> on the proposals. There’s also the fact that the commission <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8815-2019-city-charter-commission-seeks-to-tweak-city-balance-of-power">did not propose particularly sweeping changes</a> to how city government functions, though ranked-choice voting, part of the first ballot question, is a major change.</p> <p>All but one Assembly district in Queens, where there was a notable district attorney race, saw drop-off of more than 1,500 votes between the public advocate race and the fifth ballot proposal -- meaning many Queens voters were not taking stock of their entire ballot.</p> <p>One district -- Assembly District 59 in Brooklyn -- had a drop-off of roughly a thousand more voters than any other district in Romalewski’s maps. That drop-off could actually be smaller because data for that district was available from only 78 percent of ballot scanners, compared to between 85 and 99 percent of scanners in most of the other districts, he explained in an email. When they are all counted the gap may shrink.</p> <p>Another, and perhaps more notable, outlier is Assembly District 48 -- spanning Borough Park and Midwood, Brooklyn -- where there was actually a greater number of ballots marked for or against Question 1 than public advocate by 76 votes, according to one map (see below). Given its inclusion of ranked-choice voting, Question 1 was perhaps the most consequential and controversial of the ballot measures, especially among certain officials and groups. According to the unofficial election night results, voters in District 48 rejected Proposal 1 by a margin of 4,058 to 1,545, and the other four proposals by similar margins.</p> <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/patoprop1_roma_map.jpg" alt="patoprop1 roma map" width="400" height="368" style="display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;" /></p> <p>Ranked-choice voting, which for party primary and special elections will let voters list up to five candidates by preference rather than selecting a single top choice, received significant attention in the weeks leading up to Election Day, with groups campaigning for and against the proposal. The <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8802-push-launched-to-get-voters-to-choose-ranked-choice-voting">biggest proponents</a> of the new method were a coalition of good government groups, voting rights advocates, and elected officials, which spent close to $1 million on advertising for it.</p> <p>But five days ahead of Election Day, a group of city and state elected officials representing Orthodox Jewish communities in the Midwood area of Brooklyn began appearing in digital, print, and radio ads urging voters to reject all five ballot proposals, according to data from the Campaign Finance Board. The images of Assembly Member Simcha Eichenstein, who represents District 48, along with State Senator Simcha Felder and City Council Members Kalman Yeger and Chaim Deutsch graced the English- and Hebrew-language ads, often accompanied by text reading: “If approved, these proposals will waste money, make our streets more dangerous and give our community less say in our city government. Help protect our voice.”</p> <p>A total of $22,150 was spent on the ads over five days, according to campaign finance filings. They were paid for by the Police Benevolent Association Independent Expenditure Committee, which was also pouring money into a parallel campaign to defeat a proposal, in Question 2, that would enhance civilian oversight of the NYPD. The PBA spent a total of $139,626 on its <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8890-police-union-pba-spends-on-ads-to-defeat-ballot-question-2-ccrb-nypd">“Vote No on Question 2” campaign</a>, which includes the $22,150 geared toward Orthodox Jewish voters.</p> <p>Two days before Election Day, the City Council’s Black, Latino and Asian Caucus also spent $5,000 on leaflets opposing ranked-choice voting, even though some of its members were proponents of a yes vote on Question 1.</p> <p>One map shows that not only was there relatively high turnout for public advocate -- between 15,000 and 24,200 votes -- in the western half of lower Manhattan, as many as 99 percent of those voters also voted for or against proposal 5 on the back. The same map shows a number of districts where turnout was as low as 4,145 and down-ballot drop-off was between 25 and 33 percent. Those districts fall mostly in northeast Queens and the South Bronx (see map below).</p> <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/prop5percentpubadv_roma_map.jpg" alt="prop5percentpubadv roma map" width="400" height="368" style="display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;" /></p> <p>But in Assembly District 48, the opposite was true: voters there cast ballots for public advocate in relatively small numbers (between 4,145 and 7,500) but those that did were highly motivated to vote on the ballot proposals as well. As many as 99 percent of them voted on proposal 5 at the end of the ballot, Romalewski pointed out in an email.</p> <p>While all five ballot questions passed citywide and in almost every borough, Staten Island voters rejected three of them, including the ranked-choice voting and police oversight proposals (Questions 1 and 2, respectively), as well as one related to the city budget (Question 4). The widest vote margin of the rejected proposals on Staten Island, where voters tend to be more conservative than the rest of the city and where many police officers live, was on the police-related reforms.</p> <p>There, in addition to the PBA campaign against the police oversight amendments, several local elected officials joined PBA President Pat Lynch and other law enforcement union leaders days before Election Day to rally in opposition to the proposal. Borelli, who received nearly twice as many votes on Staten Island as Williams in the public advocate race, was among them.</p> <p>

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by Ethan Geringer-Sameth, reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Note: this article has been updated.</p>
<p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/30787897328_6a3c4da1ba_c.jpg" alt="voting new york city" width="600" height="401" /></p> <p>(photo: Michael Appleton/Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>A year after the 2018 election cycle, when insurgent candidates and heightened political participation helped drive a wave of New Yorkers to the polls, voter turnout in the city this fall continued the trend. While still low as a percentage of registered voters, the 15 percent turnout was far higher than previous off-year elections.</p> <p>While many attribute the recent increases in voter participation to a Trump effect, the particulars of this year’s city ballot, including key items not present in the corresponding cycle four years ago, may also have had an effect: a citywide Public Advocate election and five ballot questions offering New Yorkers the chance to approve or reject changes to city elections and governance.</p> <p>Yet while the series of proposed city charter amendments may have motivated some voters to the polls, new analysis shows the questions did not generate as much interest as the public advocate candidates at the top (and front) of the ballot.</p> <p>New maps created by Steven Romalewski, director of the Mapping Service at the Center for Urban Research, CUNY Graduate Center, using voter turnout data from the New York City Board of Elections show that, while turnout was relatively high across the board, there was significant drop-off from the top and front of the ballot -- where candidate races are listed -- to the ballot proposals on the back.</p> <p>Romalewski’s analysis also shows the places where turnout was highest (Upper West Side, Brooklyn Heights, and Park Slope) and lowest (parts of the southern Bronx and southern Brooklyn) and illustrates where voters seemed especially motivated to vote on the charter changes.</p> <p>Of the nearly 4.8 million active registered voters in New York City, 15 percent went to the polls over the two weeks they were open this fall, according to still-unofficial city turnout data and the most recent state voter registration numbers released at the beginning of November. By comparison, in the 2015 general election turnout was just 6 percent, <a href="https://www.nyccfb.info/chart/VAAC-report-2015/index.html#/Borough/2015">according to the New York City Campaign Finance Board</a>, though there was no citywide race or charter amendments on the ballot that year.</p> <p>The increased turnout follows an <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8494-more-like-a-presidential-year-report-details-extent-of-2018-new-york-voter-turnout-boom">election</a> last year where turnout was uncommonly high at 39.1 percent, according to the Campaign Finance Board. It also coincides with a number of long-sought voting reforms passed by the State Legislature after Democrats took control of both chambers following the so-called “blue wave” elections of 2018. Among them was early voting, a change advocates argued would improve access to the ballot box, which went into effect this fall. For the first time, city voters had the opportunity to vote early at 61 assigned poll sites over the course of nine days leading up to Election Day, November 5, when thousands of traditional poll sites opened citywide.</p> <p>The highest profile race this fall was for public advocate, the only citywide elected office on the ballot, where Democratic incumbent Jumaane Williams beat Republican City Council Member Joe Borelli and Libertarian nominee Devin Balkind to keep the seat he had won earlier this year in a nonpartisan special election.</p> <p>Williams won handily with nearly 78 percent of the vote in a city where registered Democrats outnumber Republicans close to seven to one. In addition to Williams’ race, as well as a City Council contest to fill the seat he vacated and a handful of judicial races, the ballot contained the five referenda encompassing 19 charter amendments put forward by the 2019 Charter Revision Commission.</p> <p>Voters overwhelmingly approved all five questions, with the 19 proposals dealing with elections and governance, by between 71 and 77 percent.</p> <p>In five maps provided to Gotham Gazette, Romalewski breaks down turnout data and ballot referenda voting by Assembly district using unofficial election night results in which roughly nine out of ten ballot scanners were counted. Official results are expected to be certified soon.</p> <p>In the areas with the highest turnout, like the Upper West Side, Brooklyn Heights, and Park Slope, nearly 24 percent of registered voters cast ballots for public advocate, according to the analysis. The neighborhoods with the lowest turnout, like the West Bronx, Mott Haven, Parkchester, and Bensonhurst saw just 10 percent or less of registered voters go to the polls (see map below).</p> <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/pubadv_roma_map.jpg" alt="pubadv roma map" width="400" style="display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;" /></p> <p>The Upper West Side and Brooklyn Heights saw close to the same high turnout on proposal 5 as they did for public advocate -- 22.4 percent (see map below). But much larger regions had turnout rates of 10 percent or less: all but three Bronx Assembly districts fall into this category, as well as Corona, East Elmhurst, and Flushing, Queens.</p> <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/prop5_roma_map.jpg" alt="prop5 roma map" width="400" style="display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;" /></p> <p>A vast majority of Assembly districts saw drop-off of between 1,000 and 2,889 votes from the top of the ballot to the back of it. The districts that saw the smallest drop-off -- under 1,000 votes -- were in parts of Lower Manhattan, the Upper East Side, Williamsburg and parts of the borough’s southern tier. The worst drop-off was in Upper Manhattan, the South Bronx, Eastern Queens, and parts of Central Brooklyn.</p> <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/patoprop5_roma_map.jpg" alt="patoprop5 roma map" width="400" height="368" style="display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;" /></p> <p>Despite what then-Public Advocate Letitia James described in July 2018 as “a rare opportunity to fundamentally change the future of our City” when the charter commission was empanelled through her legislation with Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, a number of factors may have contributed to the drop-off on ballot proposals by the time the votes were cast.</p> <p>Among them are the miniscule, <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8869-the-fine-print-on-your-ballot-charter-questions">7.5-point font</a> the ballot questions were printed in and the large amount of detail contained in each one. Another might be the <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8874-do-new-yorkers-know-about-the-ballot-questions-charter-revision">limited public education</a> conducted by government agencies in the run-up to the early voting period, or the fact that many of the city’s most prominent officials did not <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8876-top-city-officials-who-appointed-the-2019-charter-revision-commission-stand-proposals-de-blasio-johnson">express positions</a> on the proposals. There’s also the fact that the commission <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8815-2019-city-charter-commission-seeks-to-tweak-city-balance-of-power">did not propose particularly sweeping changes</a> to how city government functions, though ranked-choice voting, part of the first ballot question, is a major change.</p> <p>All but one Assembly district in Queens, where there was a notable district attorney race, saw drop-off of more than 1,500 votes between the public advocate race and the fifth ballot proposal -- meaning many Queens voters were not taking stock of their entire ballot.</p> <p>One district -- Assembly District 59 in Brooklyn -- had a drop-off of roughly a thousand more voters than any other district in Romalewski’s maps. That drop-off could actually be smaller because data for that district was available from only 78 percent of ballot scanners, compared to between 85 and 99 percent of scanners in most of the other districts, he explained in an email. When they are all counted the gap may shrink.</p> <p>Another, and perhaps more notable, outlier is Assembly District 48 -- spanning Borough Park and Midwood, Brooklyn -- where there was actually a greater number of ballots marked for or against Question 1 than public advocate by 76 votes, according to one map (see below). Given its inclusion of ranked-choice voting, Question 1 was perhaps the most consequential and controversial of the ballot measures, especially among certain officials and groups. According to the unofficial election night results, voters in District 48 rejected Proposal 1 by a margin of 4,058 to 1,545, and the other four proposals by similar margins.</p> <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/patoprop1_roma_map.jpg" alt="patoprop1 roma map" width="400" height="368" style="display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;" /></p> <p>Ranked-choice voting, which for party primary and special elections will let voters list up to five candidates by preference rather than selecting a single top choice, received significant attention in the weeks leading up to Election Day, with groups campaigning for and against the proposal. The <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8802-push-launched-to-get-voters-to-choose-ranked-choice-voting">biggest proponents</a> of the new method were a coalition of good government groups, voting rights advocates, and elected officials, which spent close to $1 million on advertising for it.</p> <p>But five days ahead of Election Day, a group of city and state elected officials representing Orthodox Jewish communities in the Midwood area of Brooklyn began appearing in digital, print, and radio ads urging voters to reject all five ballot proposals, according to data from the Campaign Finance Board. The images of Assembly Member Simcha Eichenstein, who represents District 48, along with State Senator Simcha Felder and City Council Members Kalman Yeger and Chaim Deutsch graced the English- and Hebrew-language ads, often accompanied by text reading: “If approved, these proposals will waste money, make our streets more dangerous and give our community less say in our city government. Help protect our voice.”</p> <p>A total of $22,150 was spent on the ads over five days, according to campaign finance filings. They were paid for by the Police Benevolent Association Independent Expenditure Committee, which was also pouring money into a parallel campaign to defeat a proposal, in Question 2, that would enhance civilian oversight of the NYPD. The PBA spent a total of $139,626 on its <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8890-police-union-pba-spends-on-ads-to-defeat-ballot-question-2-ccrb-nypd">“Vote No on Question 2” campaign</a>, which includes the $22,150 geared toward Orthodox Jewish voters.</p> <p>Two days before Election Day, the City Council’s Black, Latino and Asian Caucus also spent $5,000 on leaflets opposing ranked-choice voting, even though some of its members were proponents of a yes vote on Question 1.</p> <p>One map shows that not only was there relatively high turnout for public advocate -- between 15,000 and 24,200 votes -- in the western half of lower Manhattan, as many as 99 percent of those voters also voted for or against proposal 5 on the back. The same map shows a number of districts where turnout was as low as 4,145 and down-ballot drop-off was between 25 and 33 percent. Those districts fall mostly in northeast Queens and the South Bronx (see map below).</p> <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/prop5percentpubadv_roma_map.jpg" alt="prop5percentpubadv roma map" width="400" height="368" style="display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;" /></p> <p>But in Assembly District 48, the opposite was true: voters there cast ballots for public advocate in relatively small numbers (between 4,145 and 7,500) but those that did were highly motivated to vote on the ballot proposals as well. As many as 99 percent of them voted on proposal 5 at the end of the ballot, Romalewski pointed out in an email.</p> <p>While all five ballot questions passed citywide and in almost every borough, Staten Island voters rejected three of them, including the ranked-choice voting and police oversight proposals (Questions 1 and 2, respectively), as well as one related to the city budget (Question 4). The widest vote margin of the rejected proposals on Staten Island, where voters tend to be more conservative than the rest of the city and where many police officers live, was on the police-related reforms.</p> <p>There, in addition to the PBA campaign against the police oversight amendments, several local elected officials joined PBA President Pat Lynch and other law enforcement union leaders days before Election Day to rally in opposition to the proposal. Borelli, who received nearly twice as many votes on Staten Island as Williams in the public advocate race, was among them.</p> <p>

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by Ethan Geringer-Sameth, reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Note: this article has been updated.</p>
Facing Criticism, NYPD Reps Tell City Council Body Camera Program 'A Work in Progress' 2019-11-18T05:00:00+00:00 2019-11-18T05:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8935-nypd-reps-tell-city-council-body-camera-program-a-work-in-progress Ben Max <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2019/finance-comm-hearing.jpg" alt="finance comm hearing" width="600" /></p> <p>(photo: Emil Cohen/City Council)</p> <hr /> <p>The NYPD’s body-worn camera policies are a “work in progress,” a police official said at a hearing of the New York City Council’s public safety committee on Monday, seeking to allay concerns expressed by Council members about the program that now includes more than 20,000 uniformed officers. At the hearing, Council members had questions and criticisms about transparency and accountability taking a back seat to surveillance and police authority, particularly with regard to the NYPD’s control over body camera footage.</p> <p>The NYPD rolled out cameras to every uniformed patrol officer by March of this year and more recently completed equipping 4,000 specialized team officers with cameras as well. It’s a major potential step towards transparency and accountability for a department that has not had a reputation for either. But the implementation of the program has been accompanied by a slew of questions about the footage collected and when, and in what manner, it is released to the public, press, prosecutors, and external watchdogs.</p> <p>The department only published its “operations order” on public release of footage last month, and that too without a public announcement (Gotham Gazette first reported the order’s existence after repeatedly checking in with the NYPD until a link was provided). The order shows how much sway over the footage the NYPD is retaining, providing several sources of criticism for Council members and other stakeholders.</p> <p>The policy also makes no reference to releasing footage to the Civilian Complaint Review Board, which investigates police misconduct and abuse of power complaints. CCRB requests for footage are often delayed, some for months at a time. Meanwhile, the department turns unedited footage of all arrests over to district attorney offices almost immediately.</p> <p>“Basic transparency requires someone other than the NYPD to be the gatekeeper of this footage when a member of the public makes a complaint,” said Council Member Donovan Richards, chair of the public safety committee, in his opening statement. “When an oversight agency is dependent on the discretion of the very agency it is overseeing, what you end up with is the wolf guarding the henhouse. We need to do better.”</p> <p>Richards, a Queens Democrat, is also troubled by the amount of discretion built into the policy on public release, which allows the police commissioner to decide within 30 days to release footage of “critical incidents” when an individual may be killed or severely injured by a police officer, or other incidents of intense public interest.</p> <p>“The policy reads as a series of vague considerations, not a standard for the commissioner to follow,” he said. “The result is that many people are rightly concerned that the department can decide to release footage only when it looks good for them, and that body worn cameras are in fact being used as another surveillance tool, rather than for the purpose they were intended: for accountability, transparency, and to encourage civil interactions between officers and members of the public.”</p> <p>Richards’ worries were echoed by several Council members as they peppered NYPD Assistant Deputy Commissioner of Legal Matters Oleg Chernyavsky and Assistant Chief Matthew Pontillo to clarify and improve the department’s body-worn camera policies.</p> <p>“It's a work in progress,” Chernyavsky said. “We're always learning. I mean, the idea here is to be transparent, and to give the public this vital information with as little delay as possible. If there's ways to do it better, we're certainly open to that.”</p> <p>Pontillo said body camera policies have been routinely adjusted since the first pilot program in 2015, and they continue to change. “We anticipate in the near future, we will revise the policy again. We’ll probably add a couple of more categories of events that police officers get involved in, like responding to disputes,” he said. “Department policies are always under review. No policy is ever written with the idea that it will exist in perpetuity, but rather, it's an evolution and this whole thing has been an evolution since early 2014 when we began the research.”</p> <p>Chernyavsky detailed the department’s efforts to balance transparency with privacy as it faces a deluge of requests for footage. Since the launch of body cameras, the department has collected about 8 million videos, he said. On average, each video is about 8 minutes long and 130,000 new videos are uploaded to the department’s cloud video storage each week. These are then accessible to prosecutors automatically.</p> <p>For the CCRB’s disciplinary investigations, however, the department edits and redacts videos as it deems necessary under state laws. This year, the CCRB has made about 3,700 requests, which generated almost 14,500 responsive videos, Chernyavsky said, up from 2,080 requests in 2018, which led to 6,134 responsive videos. Another 870 request for footage were made this year under the Freedom of Information Law, with roughly 3,000 videos provided in response.</p> <p>He also emphasized the department’s internal quality control and random auditing process, and said the most recent 28-day audit showed 92% compliance by officers with guidelines in the NYPD Patrol Guide, which include when to turn the cameras on and off.</p> <p>Another topic of discussion at the hearing was a bill proposed by Public Advocate Jumaane Williams that would place detailed reporting requirements for the NYPD’s body-camera program. Though Chernyavsky said the department was open to collaborating with the City Council to create some form of reporting mechanism, he said Williams’ bill as written was far too onerous.</p> <p>“The bill would require us to report on data which could not be captured without a trained analyst watching and listening to every recording in its entirety, then conducting an investigation to gather additional data points,” he said in his testimony, noting that the department would need to hire and train about 800 new analysts and investigators to meet that need.</p> <p>Richards pointed out, as Gotham Gazette has <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8880-nypd-body-camera-footage-district-attorneys-ccrb" target="_blank">reported</a>, that the CCRB experiences delays in receiving footage, which can be heavily edited, and sometimes has its requests denied outright. “Why do you have to be the gatekeeper? Can't you just give access to the CCRB so they can look for the footage they need to investigate their cases?” he asked.</p> <p>But Chernyavsky argued that the CCRB does not have the same authority as district attorneys and so is subject to certain restrictions that stem from state laws on privacy. He did say the department is trying to reduce delays as far as possible. “We've been working collaboratively with [the CCRB] to streamline the process even further, and to reduce the turnaround times even more, and we're anticipating that will be able to do that, especially in the near future to hopefully almost eliminate any kind of delay and turnaround time,” he said.</p> <p>That explanation wasn’t adequate for Council Member Rory Lancman, another Queens Democrat and a longtime critic of certain NYPD practices, who questioned why the operations order on public release did not include a time-bound mechanism for releasing footage to the CCRB. “It's very disturbing to me that this order lacks a clear mechanism for getting BWC footage to the CCRB in a timely manner,” he said.</p> <p>He also pointed out, as did Council Member Brad Lander after him, that the operation order merely says the commissioner will decide within 30 days whether to release footage of a critical incident to the public. It does not seem to mandate the release, Lancman said. He also questioned whether the policy’s stated guidelines on releasing representative samples of footage would allow the NYPD to create a narrative of incidents that would protect its officers rather than reveal the truth.</p> <p>Pontillo and Chernyavsky, however, sought to reassure him. “This procedure creates a presumption of release,” Pontillo said. Chernyavsky said representative samples are part of a common sense policy. “What we are striving to do is to give this type of sample, where possible to attach a more comprehensive video to it, when you have a situation where there is just so much video footage that it's not feasible to turn it around that quickly,” he said. “You may have a situation where we're putting out something of great public interest rather than simply being silent for an extended amount of time.”</p> <p>Several Council members also pushed the police officials to commit to ensuring that body camera footage is released immediately or is at least allowed to be reviewed by the family members of individuals killed in police-involved shootings. They cited two recent examples: the fatal police shooting of Kawaski Trawick in the Bronx in April and the September incident where officers shot one of their own, Brian Mulkeen, and a civilian, Antonio Williams, in a hail of bullets. In both cases, neither Trawick’s nor Williams’ families have been allowed access to footage from officers on the scene. “I do think just families should have access sooner than everybody else,” Public Advocate Williams said. “That seems to make sense to me.”</p> <p>But the operations order notes that families of those involved would be notified and shown footage only before it is publicly released, as has been the department’s practice. Families do not receive immediate access when they demand it.&nbsp;</p> <p>Civil rights and police reform advocates who spoke at the hearing in support of Williams’ bill expressed additional criticisms of the overall body-camera program.&nbsp;</p> <p>Jacqueline Caruana, senior trial attorney at the criminal defense practice at Brooklyn Defender Services, said the program is currently being used to the NYPD’s advantage rather than for transparency. “Any legislation that establishes reporting requirements for body-worn camera usage will likely be ineffectual if it does not also impose a consequence for failure to follow them, and if the department itself remains generally unwilling to penalize offices for misconduct,” she said.</p> <p>Michael Sisitzky of the New York Civil Liberties Union said the NYPD’s total control over cameras and footage undermines the goals of the program. “If it becomes apparent that these cameras are primarily focused on surveillance and tool for prosecution, New York City must be open to reconsidering whether the substantial sums currently spent on this NYPD program could be better invested in our communities,” he said in written testimony.</p> <p>Lenora Easter, team leader of the early defense team at the criminal defense practice of The Bronx Defenders, urged the Council to close a loophole that allows officers discretion to not turn on their cameras in exigent circumstances. She also pushed for increasing the “buffering period” on officer cameras – the two types of cameras currently used will save 30 seconds and 1 minute of footage prior to a camera being turned on. That extra buffer provides added context to an incident but recorded without audio.</p> <p>Laura Hecht-Felella, legal fellow at the Brennan Center for Justice, said Williams’ bill should be passed alongside the Public Oversight of Surveillance Technology (POST) Act, a bill introduced by Council Member Vanessa Gibson to mandate the NYPD disclose information about the surveillance tools it uses. The NYPD has vehemently opposed that bill over the course of two Council sessions.</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2019/finance-comm-hearing.jpg" alt="finance comm hearing" width="600" /></p> <p>(photo: Emil Cohen/City Council)</p> <hr /> <p>The NYPD’s body-worn camera policies are a “work in progress,” a police official said at a hearing of the New York City Council’s public safety committee on Monday, seeking to allay concerns expressed by Council members about the program that now includes more than 20,000 uniformed officers. At the hearing, Council members had questions and criticisms about transparency and accountability taking a back seat to surveillance and police authority, particularly with regard to the NYPD’s control over body camera footage.</p> <p>The NYPD rolled out cameras to every uniformed patrol officer by March of this year and more recently completed equipping 4,000 specialized team officers with cameras as well. It’s a major potential step towards transparency and accountability for a department that has not had a reputation for either. But the implementation of the program has been accompanied by a slew of questions about the footage collected and when, and in what manner, it is released to the public, press, prosecutors, and external watchdogs.</p> <p>The department only published its “operations order” on public release of footage last month, and that too without a public announcement (Gotham Gazette first reported the order’s existence after repeatedly checking in with the NYPD until a link was provided). The order shows how much sway over the footage the NYPD is retaining, providing several sources of criticism for Council members and other stakeholders.</p> <p>The policy also makes no reference to releasing footage to the Civilian Complaint Review Board, which investigates police misconduct and abuse of power complaints. CCRB requests for footage are often delayed, some for months at a time. Meanwhile, the department turns unedited footage of all arrests over to district attorney offices almost immediately.</p> <p>“Basic transparency requires someone other than the NYPD to be the gatekeeper of this footage when a member of the public makes a complaint,” said Council Member Donovan Richards, chair of the public safety committee, in his opening statement. “When an oversight agency is dependent on the discretion of the very agency it is overseeing, what you end up with is the wolf guarding the henhouse. We need to do better.”</p> <p>Richards, a Queens Democrat, is also troubled by the amount of discretion built into the policy on public release, which allows the police commissioner to decide within 30 days to release footage of “critical incidents” when an individual may be killed or severely injured by a police officer, or other incidents of intense public interest.</p> <p>“The policy reads as a series of vague considerations, not a standard for the commissioner to follow,” he said. “The result is that many people are rightly concerned that the department can decide to release footage only when it looks good for them, and that body worn cameras are in fact being used as another surveillance tool, rather than for the purpose they were intended: for accountability, transparency, and to encourage civil interactions between officers and members of the public.”</p> <p>Richards’ worries were echoed by several Council members as they peppered NYPD Assistant Deputy Commissioner of Legal Matters Oleg Chernyavsky and Assistant Chief Matthew Pontillo to clarify and improve the department’s body-worn camera policies.</p> <p>“It's a work in progress,” Chernyavsky said. “We're always learning. I mean, the idea here is to be transparent, and to give the public this vital information with as little delay as possible. If there's ways to do it better, we're certainly open to that.”</p> <p>Pontillo said body camera policies have been routinely adjusted since the first pilot program in 2015, and they continue to change. “We anticipate in the near future, we will revise the policy again. We’ll probably add a couple of more categories of events that police officers get involved in, like responding to disputes,” he said. “Department policies are always under review. No policy is ever written with the idea that it will exist in perpetuity, but rather, it's an evolution and this whole thing has been an evolution since early 2014 when we began the research.”</p> <p>Chernyavsky detailed the department’s efforts to balance transparency with privacy as it faces a deluge of requests for footage. Since the launch of body cameras, the department has collected about 8 million videos, he said. On average, each video is about 8 minutes long and 130,000 new videos are uploaded to the department’s cloud video storage each week. These are then accessible to prosecutors automatically.</p> <p>For the CCRB’s disciplinary investigations, however, the department edits and redacts videos as it deems necessary under state laws. This year, the CCRB has made about 3,700 requests, which generated almost 14,500 responsive videos, Chernyavsky said, up from 2,080 requests in 2018, which led to 6,134 responsive videos. Another 870 request for footage were made this year under the Freedom of Information Law, with roughly 3,000 videos provided in response.</p> <p>He also emphasized the department’s internal quality control and random auditing process, and said the most recent 28-day audit showed 92% compliance by officers with guidelines in the NYPD Patrol Guide, which include when to turn the cameras on and off.</p> <p>Another topic of discussion at the hearing was a bill proposed by Public Advocate Jumaane Williams that would place detailed reporting requirements for the NYPD’s body-camera program. Though Chernyavsky said the department was open to collaborating with the City Council to create some form of reporting mechanism, he said Williams’ bill as written was far too onerous.</p> <p>“The bill would require us to report on data which could not be captured without a trained analyst watching and listening to every recording in its entirety, then conducting an investigation to gather additional data points,” he said in his testimony, noting that the department would need to hire and train about 800 new analysts and investigators to meet that need.</p> <p>Richards pointed out, as Gotham Gazette has <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8880-nypd-body-camera-footage-district-attorneys-ccrb" target="_blank">reported</a>, that the CCRB experiences delays in receiving footage, which can be heavily edited, and sometimes has its requests denied outright. “Why do you have to be the gatekeeper? Can't you just give access to the CCRB so they can look for the footage they need to investigate their cases?” he asked.</p> <p>But Chernyavsky argued that the CCRB does not have the same authority as district attorneys and so is subject to certain restrictions that stem from state laws on privacy. He did say the department is trying to reduce delays as far as possible. “We've been working collaboratively with [the CCRB] to streamline the process even further, and to reduce the turnaround times even more, and we're anticipating that will be able to do that, especially in the near future to hopefully almost eliminate any kind of delay and turnaround time,” he said.</p> <p>That explanation wasn’t adequate for Council Member Rory Lancman, another Queens Democrat and a longtime critic of certain NYPD practices, who questioned why the operations order on public release did not include a time-bound mechanism for releasing footage to the CCRB. “It's very disturbing to me that this order lacks a clear mechanism for getting BWC footage to the CCRB in a timely manner,” he said.</p> <p>He also pointed out, as did Council Member Brad Lander after him, that the operation order merely says the commissioner will decide within 30 days whether to release footage of a critical incident to the public. It does not seem to mandate the release, Lancman said. He also questioned whether the policy’s stated guidelines on releasing representative samples of footage would allow the NYPD to create a narrative of incidents that would protect its officers rather than reveal the truth.</p> <p>Pontillo and Chernyavsky, however, sought to reassure him. “This procedure creates a presumption of release,” Pontillo said. Chernyavsky said representative samples are part of a common sense policy. “What we are striving to do is to give this type of sample, where possible to attach a more comprehensive video to it, when you have a situation where there is just so much video footage that it's not feasible to turn it around that quickly,” he said. “You may have a situation where we're putting out something of great public interest rather than simply being silent for an extended amount of time.”</p> <p>Several Council members also pushed the police officials to commit to ensuring that body camera footage is released immediately or is at least allowed to be reviewed by the family members of individuals killed in police-involved shootings. They cited two recent examples: the fatal police shooting of Kawaski Trawick in the Bronx in April and the September incident where officers shot one of their own, Brian Mulkeen, and a civilian, Antonio Williams, in a hail of bullets. In both cases, neither Trawick’s nor Williams’ families have been allowed access to footage from officers on the scene. “I do think just families should have access sooner than everybody else,” Public Advocate Williams said. “That seems to make sense to me.”</p> <p>But the operations order notes that families of those involved would be notified and shown footage only before it is publicly released, as has been the department’s practice. Families do not receive immediate access when they demand it.&nbsp;</p> <p>Civil rights and police reform advocates who spoke at the hearing in support of Williams’ bill expressed additional criticisms of the overall body-camera program.&nbsp;</p> <p>Jacqueline Caruana, senior trial attorney at the criminal defense practice at Brooklyn Defender Services, said the program is currently being used to the NYPD’s advantage rather than for transparency. “Any legislation that establishes reporting requirements for body-worn camera usage will likely be ineffectual if it does not also impose a consequence for failure to follow them, and if the department itself remains generally unwilling to penalize offices for misconduct,” she said.</p> <p>Michael Sisitzky of the New York Civil Liberties Union said the NYPD’s total control over cameras and footage undermines the goals of the program. “If it becomes apparent that these cameras are primarily focused on surveillance and tool for prosecution, New York City must be open to reconsidering whether the substantial sums currently spent on this NYPD program could be better invested in our communities,” he said in written testimony.</p> <p>Lenora Easter, team leader of the early defense team at the criminal defense practice of The Bronx Defenders, urged the Council to close a loophole that allows officers discretion to not turn on their cameras in exigent circumstances. She also pushed for increasing the “buffering period” on officer cameras – the two types of cameras currently used will save 30 seconds and 1 minute of footage prior to a camera being turned on. That extra buffer provides added context to an incident but recorded without audio.</p> <p>Laura Hecht-Felella, legal fellow at the Brennan Center for Justice, said Williams’ bill should be passed alongside the Public Oversight of Surveillance Technology (POST) Act, a bill introduced by Council Member Vanessa Gibson to mandate the NYPD disclose information about the surveillance tools it uses. The NYPD has vehemently opposed that bill over the course of two Council sessions.</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
City Council to Examine Rollout of NYPD Body Camera Program 2019-11-17T05:00:00+00:00 2019-11-17T05:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8927-city-council-to-examine-nypd-rollout-of-body-camera-program Ben Max <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2019/cm-cornegy-richards-press-conference.jpg" alt="cm cornegy richards press conference" width="600" height="440" /></p> <p>(photo: John McCarten/City Council)</p> <hr /> <p>The NYPD’s body-worn camera program is meant to provide transparency and accountability about policing activity in the city, particularly in cases of high-profile incidents of police officers’ use of force against civilians. But more than seven months after body cameras were rolled out to every uniformed patrol officer, there are many questions about how the cameras are used and about the policies that determine the release of the footage to the public and independent watchdogs.</p> <p>At a hearing on Monday, the New York City Council will examine the rollout of the program and ask some of those key questions, along with discussion of proposed legislation to require the NYPD to regularly publish data on the implementation of the body-worn camera program.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>The Council’s Committee on Public Safety, chaired by Council Member Donovan Richards, is expected to delve into two main issues: the long delays in the release of body camera footage to the Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB), an independent agency that monitors and investigates allegations of abuse of power and misconduct by police officers; and the NYPD’s recently-published policy on releasing footage to members of the public and the news media.</p> <p>[Read: <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8896-nypd-releases-body-camera-footage-policy">NYPD Publishes Long-Sought Body Camera Footage Policy</a>]</p> <p>Footage from body-worn cameras is crucial evidence in investigations by outside authorities into complaints against NYPD officers. Gotham Gazette recently <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8880-nypd-body-camera-footage-district-attorneys-ccrb">reported</a> that since March, when body-worn cameras were fully rolled out to 20,000 patrol officers, between 29 and 37% of the CCRB’s open investigations had pending requests for body camera footage, per monthly data from the Board. The delay for releasing footage also varies. The NYPD responded to 43% of requests within 30 days; 35% of requests were fulfilled within 30 and 60 days; in 13% of requests, there was no response for more than 90 days.</p> <p>Even when footage is provided, it can be edited or censored. The NYPD says the delays can be attributed to the need to edit footage to ensure compliance with state privacy protection laws, but the CCRB has pointed out several <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8928-reasons-nypd-wont-provide-body-camera-video-to-oversight-board-ccrb" target="_blank" rel="noopener">other reasons that the department has cited</a> to refuse to provide footage, while also pointing out that there have been many cases where the NYPD says body camera footage doesn’t exist, but it is later discovered that it does.&nbsp;[Read: <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8923-nypd-editing-body-camera-footage-policy-unit">New NYPD Body Camera Footage Policy Raises Questions About Editing</a>]</p> <p>Meanwhile, prosecutors in district attorney offices across the city automatically receive unedited body camera footage from the department when it is uploaded after an arrest.&nbsp;[Read: <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8880-nypd-body-camera-footage-district-attorneys-ccrb">Vast Difference in NYPD Provision of Body Camera Footage to District Attorneys Versus Police Watchdog</a>]</p> <p>“One of the things that I want to explore the most is the issue around CCRB and obviously prosecutors gaining access to the footage much faster,” said Richards, a Queens Democrat, in a phone interview.</p> <p>“The Civilian Complaint Review Board plays a very important role, just as we saw in the [Eric] Garner case,” Richards added, citing the CCRB’s investigation into then-NYPD Officer Daniel Pantaleo, who was recently terminated from the force, five years after he used a banned chokehold during an attempted arrest that led to Garner’s death on Staten Island. “And being that they are the agency that has oversight over the NYPD, they shouldn't have to wait 30 days. They should be able to have a system in place that gives them access right away,” he said.</p> <p>The NYPD’s policy on public release has been criticized by a number of stakeholders and experts, first for including a 30-day timeline for footage of “critical incidents” and also for an explicit acknowledgement that the NYPD will exercise discretion in editing and omitting certain footage. The department’s recently (and quietly) released “operations order” around release of footage also makes no mention at all of the CCRB.</p> <p>Richards said the 30-day policy is inadequate.</p> <p>“One of the things we do also want to ensure is that the NYPD is not just doctoring certain parts of the video that they want the public to see,” he added. “We need to make sure that it's a full transparent process and that the public, who funds the NYPD, has the right to know what these interactions look like between the department and everyday people...which creates a higher standard, which then leads to more accountability and ensuring that there’s checks and balances.”</p> <p>Besides the oversight aspect of Monday’s hearing, the Council will also discuss <a href="https://legistar.council.nyc.gov/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=3686725&amp;GUID=EC547ECE-9268-4FD3-936E-774DFA3C85A9&amp;Options=&amp;Search=">a bill</a> proposed by Public Advocate Jumaane Williams that requires the NYPD to publish quarterly public reports on the use of body-worn cameras and an annual report on every incident that requires activation of a body camera.</p> <p>The quarterly reports would include data on the number of officers with body-worn cameras, and the percentage of officers, disaggregated by borough and precinct; the percentage of total law enforcement activities where body-worn camera footage was recorded, disaggregated by category of law enforcement activity; the percentage of total use-of-force incidents where footage was recorded, disaggregated by use-of-force category; and the percentage of total police-civilian encounters that lead to investigations by the NYPD’s Internal Affairs Bureau where footage was recorded; disaggregated by category of alleged misconduct.</p> <p>The annual report would be far more detailed, requiring data on every incident recorded on body-worn cameras in the previous year including the date, time, and location of the incident; the law enforcement activity that triggered the recording; whether officers on scene were equipped with cameras; whether footage was recorded and the reason if it was not; whether the camera failed to clearly record audio; whether the footage was visually compromised or obstructed in any way; whether an officer told an individual they were being recorded; whether an officer switched off their camera before the incident was concluded; whether someone requested the footage under the state’s Freedom of Information Law; whether a use-of-force incident occurred during the recording, and the category; whether a recording was used for an internal investigation by the department or for an external probe by the CCRB; and the race, gender and age of the individual subject to law enforcement activity that led to the recording.</p> <p>[Read:&nbsp;<a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8923-nypd-editing-body-camera-footage-policy-unit">New NYPD Body Camera Footage Policy Raises Questions About Editing</a>]</p> <p>[Read:&nbsp;<a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8880-nypd-body-camera-footage-district-attorneys-ccrb">Vast Difference in NYPD Provision of Body Camera Footage to District Attorneys Versus Police Watchdog</a>]</p> <p>[Read: <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8928-reasons-nypd-wont-provide-body-camera-video-to-oversight-board-ccrb" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Oversight Board Stymied by NYPD Denial of Body Camera Footage Requests</a>]</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2019/cm-cornegy-richards-press-conference.jpg" alt="cm cornegy richards press conference" width="600" height="440" /></p> <p>(photo: John McCarten/City Council)</p> <hr /> <p>The NYPD’s body-worn camera program is meant to provide transparency and accountability about policing activity in the city, particularly in cases of high-profile incidents of police officers’ use of force against civilians. But more than seven months after body cameras were rolled out to every uniformed patrol officer, there are many questions about how the cameras are used and about the policies that determine the release of the footage to the public and independent watchdogs.</p> <p>At a hearing on Monday, the New York City Council will examine the rollout of the program and ask some of those key questions, along with discussion of proposed legislation to require the NYPD to regularly publish data on the implementation of the body-worn camera program.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>The Council’s Committee on Public Safety, chaired by Council Member Donovan Richards, is expected to delve into two main issues: the long delays in the release of body camera footage to the Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB), an independent agency that monitors and investigates allegations of abuse of power and misconduct by police officers; and the NYPD’s recently-published policy on releasing footage to members of the public and the news media.</p> <p>[Read: <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8896-nypd-releases-body-camera-footage-policy">NYPD Publishes Long-Sought Body Camera Footage Policy</a>]</p> <p>Footage from body-worn cameras is crucial evidence in investigations by outside authorities into complaints against NYPD officers. Gotham Gazette recently <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8880-nypd-body-camera-footage-district-attorneys-ccrb">reported</a> that since March, when body-worn cameras were fully rolled out to 20,000 patrol officers, between 29 and 37% of the CCRB’s open investigations had pending requests for body camera footage, per monthly data from the Board. The delay for releasing footage also varies. The NYPD responded to 43% of requests within 30 days; 35% of requests were fulfilled within 30 and 60 days; in 13% of requests, there was no response for more than 90 days.</p> <p>Even when footage is provided, it can be edited or censored. The NYPD says the delays can be attributed to the need to edit footage to ensure compliance with state privacy protection laws, but the CCRB has pointed out several <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8928-reasons-nypd-wont-provide-body-camera-video-to-oversight-board-ccrb" target="_blank" rel="noopener">other reasons that the department has cited</a> to refuse to provide footage, while also pointing out that there have been many cases where the NYPD says body camera footage doesn’t exist, but it is later discovered that it does.&nbsp;[Read: <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8923-nypd-editing-body-camera-footage-policy-unit">New NYPD Body Camera Footage Policy Raises Questions About Editing</a>]</p> <p>Meanwhile, prosecutors in district attorney offices across the city automatically receive unedited body camera footage from the department when it is uploaded after an arrest.&nbsp;[Read: <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8880-nypd-body-camera-footage-district-attorneys-ccrb">Vast Difference in NYPD Provision of Body Camera Footage to District Attorneys Versus Police Watchdog</a>]</p> <p>“One of the things that I want to explore the most is the issue around CCRB and obviously prosecutors gaining access to the footage much faster,” said Richards, a Queens Democrat, in a phone interview.</p> <p>“The Civilian Complaint Review Board plays a very important role, just as we saw in the [Eric] Garner case,” Richards added, citing the CCRB’s investigation into then-NYPD Officer Daniel Pantaleo, who was recently terminated from the force, five years after he used a banned chokehold during an attempted arrest that led to Garner’s death on Staten Island. “And being that they are the agency that has oversight over the NYPD, they shouldn't have to wait 30 days. They should be able to have a system in place that gives them access right away,” he said.</p> <p>The NYPD’s policy on public release has been criticized by a number of stakeholders and experts, first for including a 30-day timeline for footage of “critical incidents” and also for an explicit acknowledgement that the NYPD will exercise discretion in editing and omitting certain footage. The department’s recently (and quietly) released “operations order” around release of footage also makes no mention at all of the CCRB.</p> <p>Richards said the 30-day policy is inadequate.</p> <p>“One of the things we do also want to ensure is that the NYPD is not just doctoring certain parts of the video that they want the public to see,” he added. “We need to make sure that it's a full transparent process and that the public, who funds the NYPD, has the right to know what these interactions look like between the department and everyday people...which creates a higher standard, which then leads to more accountability and ensuring that there’s checks and balances.”</p> <p>Besides the oversight aspect of Monday’s hearing, the Council will also discuss <a href="https://legistar.council.nyc.gov/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=3686725&amp;GUID=EC547ECE-9268-4FD3-936E-774DFA3C85A9&amp;Options=&amp;Search=">a bill</a> proposed by Public Advocate Jumaane Williams that requires the NYPD to publish quarterly public reports on the use of body-worn cameras and an annual report on every incident that requires activation of a body camera.</p> <p>The quarterly reports would include data on the number of officers with body-worn cameras, and the percentage of officers, disaggregated by borough and precinct; the percentage of total law enforcement activities where body-worn camera footage was recorded, disaggregated by category of law enforcement activity; the percentage of total use-of-force incidents where footage was recorded, disaggregated by use-of-force category; and the percentage of total police-civilian encounters that lead to investigations by the NYPD’s Internal Affairs Bureau where footage was recorded; disaggregated by category of alleged misconduct.</p> <p>The annual report would be far more detailed, requiring data on every incident recorded on body-worn cameras in the previous year including the date, time, and location of the incident; the law enforcement activity that triggered the recording; whether officers on scene were equipped with cameras; whether footage was recorded and the reason if it was not; whether the camera failed to clearly record audio; whether the footage was visually compromised or obstructed in any way; whether an officer told an individual they were being recorded; whether an officer switched off their camera before the incident was concluded; whether someone requested the footage under the state’s Freedom of Information Law; whether a use-of-force incident occurred during the recording, and the category; whether a recording was used for an internal investigation by the department or for an external probe by the CCRB; and the race, gender and age of the individual subject to law enforcement activity that led to the recording.</p> <p>[Read:&nbsp;<a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8923-nypd-editing-body-camera-footage-policy-unit">New NYPD Body Camera Footage Policy Raises Questions About Editing</a>]</p> <p>[Read:&nbsp;<a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8880-nypd-body-camera-footage-district-attorneys-ccrb">Vast Difference in NYPD Provision of Body Camera Footage to District Attorneys Versus Police Watchdog</a>]</p> <p>[Read: <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8928-reasons-nypd-wont-provide-body-camera-video-to-oversight-board-ccrb" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Oversight Board Stymied by NYPD Denial of Body Camera Footage Requests</a>]</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
Oversight Board Stymied by NYPD Denial of Body Camera Footage Requests 2019-11-16T05:00:00+00:00 2019-11-16T05:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8928-reasons-nypd-wont-provide-body-camera-video-to-oversight-board-ccrb Ben Max <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2019/police-comm-confer.jpg" alt="police comm confer" width="600" /></p> <p>(photo: Edwin J. Torres/Mayoral Photo Office)</p> <hr /> <p>Amid the ongoing conversation about the way the NYPD handles footage recorded by officer-worn body cameras, more details have surfaced about the reasons the department gives for delaying or denying requests made by misconduct investigators for key pieces of video.</p> <p>Gotham Gazette <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8923-nypd-editing-body-camera-footage-policy-unit">recently reported</a> that while prosecutors in district attorney offices get full body-worn camera footage directly from the arresting officer following an arrest, police watchdogs often experience significant delays in obtaining video from the NYPD, if the footage is handed over at all.</p> <p>Over the course of many months running, roughly a third of Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB) investigations have outstanding body camera footage requests. More than half of all footage requests made by the CCRB are pending for more than 30 days (some even longer), which CCRB officials say has contributed to a growing backlog that threatens to derail ongoing investigations.</p> <p>The CCRB is a civilian agency with Board members appointed by the mayor -- some recommended by the police commissioner or City Council -- and jurisdiction to investigate and prosecute allegations of officer misconduct when the claims involve excessive force or abuse of authority, among others.</p> <p>The police department’s body-worn camera program hit full implementation across the entire force earlier this year, but the NYPD just last month issued its first “operations order” that indicates how camera footage is reviewed and disseminated to the public or prosecutors. The CCRB is not mentioned in the official policy.</p> <p>NYPD officials have said, for requests made by the public or the CCRB, the department must edit the footage in order to comply with privacy provisions within the state’s public disclosure laws. Tracking down the relevant footage from any police body cameras on the scene of an incident, and ensuring it is edited to prevent depicting legally protected information, can contribute to the delays, department officials say.</p> <p>Yet in a July memo to the CCRB, recently obtained by Gotham Gazette, CCRB Director of Quality Assurance and Improvement Olas Carayannis describes additional reasons the NYPD has given to outright deny body camera footage requests. The conditions discussed in the memo may also illuminate causes for the consistent delays in releasing footage to the CCRB, which the NYPD says it is working on and the mayor’s office told Gotham Gazette it will review. There is a City Council oversight hearing on the body camera program set for Monday.</p> <p>Earlier this fall, NYPD spokesperson Al Baker told Gotham Gazette body camera video could be edited to shield the identities of victims and survivors of sex crimes, which he says the state’s civil rights statute protect. He also said footage can be redacted or omitted to remove images of confidential medical treatment, protected under federal law, or “other prisoners in a cell whose arrest may be sealed.” At a CCRB board meeting in September, Board Chair Fred Davie said there are also cases where the NYPD has withheld footage because it captures the face of a minor.</p> <p>“With all NYPD patrol officers now outfitted with body-worn cameras, the NYPD collaborates closely with the CCRB to provide footage as expeditiously as possible,” Baker wrote in an email to Gotham Gazette in November. In March, Mayor Bill de Blasio and Police Commissioner James O’Neill announced the completed rollout of 20,000 body cameras to rank-and-file officers.</p> <p>“That practice is constantly being fine-tuned to offer even faster turnarounds considering that a single request from the CCRB, about a single policing encounter, can mean that lengthy videos from dozens of officers must be carefully reviewed and possibly redacted,” Baker said.</p> <p>The memo from Carayannis goes further, laying out other reasons the NYPD has given to CCRB investigators, some of which outline grounds for completely denying footage requests in addition to pointing to causes for delays.</p> <p>Between February 2018 and July 2019, the NYPD has reserved the right to withhold body camera recordings when there is an ongoing investigation by the Internal Affairs Bureau or another body, Carayannis noted. During that time period 41 cases were denied on that basis, six of which “were being investigated by the Force Investigations Division, which often investigates high-profile media cases involving force allegations that are also the CCRB’s jurisdiction,” the memo reads.</p> <p>“Waiting for the Force Investigations Division to complete its investigation limits the CCRB’s ability to independently investigate these complaints,” Carayannis wrote. CCRB investigations must be completed within an 18-month statute of limitations.</p> <p>The memo also states that in March 2018, the NYPD began refusing to provide the CCRB footage of incidents when they involved an arrest that was later sealed (a fact <a href="https://www.wnyc.org/story/police-misconduct-body-worn-camera-videos-slow-come/">WNYC reported</a> in July). “The NYPD considers the entire incident sealed in these instances, and thus all videos related to that arrest become unavailable to the CCRB,” the memo states.</p> <p>It says, “The NYPD currently has a blanket policy of denying all BWC [body worn camera] requests that are in any way related to a sealed case,” pursuant to the state’s Criminal Procedure Law. In the memo Carayannis reports 81 CCRB requests that had been altogether denied because they were associated with a sealed arrest between March 2018 and July 2019.</p> <p>Complaints can be made against officers for conduct that takes place during an arrest later sealed, and body camera footage could be essential in those investigations. Sealing records is meant to protect the reputation of an individual who may have had criminal charges dropped or ones that were very minor to begin with.</p> <p>In April, the New York Supreme Court determined it was illegal for the police department to “us[e] any documents” connected with a sealed arrest, according to the memo. But Carayannis’s memo raises concerns that NYPD “members of service” (police officers) may continue to view body camera footage related to a sealed arrest, despite the ruling.</p> <p>Carayannis wrote, “the CCRB is aware of multiple instances where the CCRB was denied access to video footage pursuant to [the Criminal Procedure Law], yet the [officer] was able to view the video prior to his/her CCRB interview.”</p> <p>Video request denials because of a sealed arrest can compound the effect of other obstacles the CCRB says it faces in receiving and analyzing evidence from BWCs. “The backlog in BWC requests will cause the number of BWC videos unavailable to the CCRB to increase drastically, because the likelihood that an arrest is sealed rises with the length of time since an arrest,” the memo stated.</p> <p>Another reason given by the NYPD to the CCRB for denying certain video requests is the presence of a minor in the sought-after recording. Baker has noted that the depiction of juveniles is a consideration in processing footage requests, writing in a November email, “Our policy for release is guided by State law and ensures that sensitive information involving juveniles or sex crime victims, among other things, is protected.”</p> <p>Carayannis’ memo expands upon that description, explicitly citing it as a reason given, not only for potential delays in delivering footage, but for wholly refusing requests. Between March 2018 and July 2019, 82 video requests made by the CCRB were denied because of the presence of minors under the age of 18, which the police department said was required under the state’s Family Court Act, according to the memo.</p> <p>“If you’re really interested in protecting young New Yorkers, if you’re really interested in improving relationships between the NYPD and those young people...then the best way to do that is by ensuring that we hold members of the police department in this city accountable,” CCRB Chair Davie said at the September board meeting.</p> <p>“Ensuring the city’s police oversight agency has the tools it needs to investigate this misconduct is the best way to protect” young people captured in body camera video, he added.</p> <p>Despite repeated attempts, NYPD representatives did not provide comment specifically for this story, particularly with regard to questions about denying video footage records requests because of ongoing IAB investigations, sealed arrests, or the presence of a minor.</p> <p>[READ:&nbsp;<a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8923-nypd-editing-body-camera-footage-policy-unit" target="_blank" rel="noopener">New NYPD Body Camera Footage Policy Raises Questions About Editing</a>]</p> <p>

***
by Ethan Geringer-Sameth, reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2019/police-comm-confer.jpg" alt="police comm confer" width="600" /></p> <p>(photo: Edwin J. Torres/Mayoral Photo Office)</p> <hr /> <p>Amid the ongoing conversation about the way the NYPD handles footage recorded by officer-worn body cameras, more details have surfaced about the reasons the department gives for delaying or denying requests made by misconduct investigators for key pieces of video.</p> <p>Gotham Gazette <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8923-nypd-editing-body-camera-footage-policy-unit">recently reported</a> that while prosecutors in district attorney offices get full body-worn camera footage directly from the arresting officer following an arrest, police watchdogs often experience significant delays in obtaining video from the NYPD, if the footage is handed over at all.</p> <p>Over the course of many months running, roughly a third of Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB) investigations have outstanding body camera footage requests. More than half of all footage requests made by the CCRB are pending for more than 30 days (some even longer), which CCRB officials say has contributed to a growing backlog that threatens to derail ongoing investigations.</p> <p>The CCRB is a civilian agency with Board members appointed by the mayor -- some recommended by the police commissioner or City Council -- and jurisdiction to investigate and prosecute allegations of officer misconduct when the claims involve excessive force or abuse of authority, among others.</p> <p>The police department’s body-worn camera program hit full implementation across the entire force earlier this year, but the NYPD just last month issued its first “operations order” that indicates how camera footage is reviewed and disseminated to the public or prosecutors. The CCRB is not mentioned in the official policy.</p> <p>NYPD officials have said, for requests made by the public or the CCRB, the department must edit the footage in order to comply with privacy provisions within the state’s public disclosure laws. Tracking down the relevant footage from any police body cameras on the scene of an incident, and ensuring it is edited to prevent depicting legally protected information, can contribute to the delays, department officials say.</p> <p>Yet in a July memo to the CCRB, recently obtained by Gotham Gazette, CCRB Director of Quality Assurance and Improvement Olas Carayannis describes additional reasons the NYPD has given to outright deny body camera footage requests. The conditions discussed in the memo may also illuminate causes for the consistent delays in releasing footage to the CCRB, which the NYPD says it is working on and the mayor’s office told Gotham Gazette it will review. There is a City Council oversight hearing on the body camera program set for Monday.</p> <p>Earlier this fall, NYPD spokesperson Al Baker told Gotham Gazette body camera video could be edited to shield the identities of victims and survivors of sex crimes, which he says the state’s civil rights statute protect. He also said footage can be redacted or omitted to remove images of confidential medical treatment, protected under federal law, or “other prisoners in a cell whose arrest may be sealed.” At a CCRB board meeting in September, Board Chair Fred Davie said there are also cases where the NYPD has withheld footage because it captures the face of a minor.</p> <p>“With all NYPD patrol officers now outfitted with body-worn cameras, the NYPD collaborates closely with the CCRB to provide footage as expeditiously as possible,” Baker wrote in an email to Gotham Gazette in November. In March, Mayor Bill de Blasio and Police Commissioner James O’Neill announced the completed rollout of 20,000 body cameras to rank-and-file officers.</p> <p>“That practice is constantly being fine-tuned to offer even faster turnarounds considering that a single request from the CCRB, about a single policing encounter, can mean that lengthy videos from dozens of officers must be carefully reviewed and possibly redacted,” Baker said.</p> <p>The memo from Carayannis goes further, laying out other reasons the NYPD has given to CCRB investigators, some of which outline grounds for completely denying footage requests in addition to pointing to causes for delays.</p> <p>Between February 2018 and July 2019, the NYPD has reserved the right to withhold body camera recordings when there is an ongoing investigation by the Internal Affairs Bureau or another body, Carayannis noted. During that time period 41 cases were denied on that basis, six of which “were being investigated by the Force Investigations Division, which often investigates high-profile media cases involving force allegations that are also the CCRB’s jurisdiction,” the memo reads.</p> <p>“Waiting for the Force Investigations Division to complete its investigation limits the CCRB’s ability to independently investigate these complaints,” Carayannis wrote. CCRB investigations must be completed within an 18-month statute of limitations.</p> <p>The memo also states that in March 2018, the NYPD began refusing to provide the CCRB footage of incidents when they involved an arrest that was later sealed (a fact <a href="https://www.wnyc.org/story/police-misconduct-body-worn-camera-videos-slow-come/">WNYC reported</a> in July). “The NYPD considers the entire incident sealed in these instances, and thus all videos related to that arrest become unavailable to the CCRB,” the memo states.</p> <p>It says, “The NYPD currently has a blanket policy of denying all BWC [body worn camera] requests that are in any way related to a sealed case,” pursuant to the state’s Criminal Procedure Law. In the memo Carayannis reports 81 CCRB requests that had been altogether denied because they were associated with a sealed arrest between March 2018 and July 2019.</p> <p>Complaints can be made against officers for conduct that takes place during an arrest later sealed, and body camera footage could be essential in those investigations. Sealing records is meant to protect the reputation of an individual who may have had criminal charges dropped or ones that were very minor to begin with.</p> <p>In April, the New York Supreme Court determined it was illegal for the police department to “us[e] any documents” connected with a sealed arrest, according to the memo. But Carayannis’s memo raises concerns that NYPD “members of service” (police officers) may continue to view body camera footage related to a sealed arrest, despite the ruling.</p> <p>Carayannis wrote, “the CCRB is aware of multiple instances where the CCRB was denied access to video footage pursuant to [the Criminal Procedure Law], yet the [officer] was able to view the video prior to his/her CCRB interview.”</p> <p>Video request denials because of a sealed arrest can compound the effect of other obstacles the CCRB says it faces in receiving and analyzing evidence from BWCs. “The backlog in BWC requests will cause the number of BWC videos unavailable to the CCRB to increase drastically, because the likelihood that an arrest is sealed rises with the length of time since an arrest,” the memo stated.</p> <p>Another reason given by the NYPD to the CCRB for denying certain video requests is the presence of a minor in the sought-after recording. Baker has noted that the depiction of juveniles is a consideration in processing footage requests, writing in a November email, “Our policy for release is guided by State law and ensures that sensitive information involving juveniles or sex crime victims, among other things, is protected.”</p> <p>Carayannis’ memo expands upon that description, explicitly citing it as a reason given, not only for potential delays in delivering footage, but for wholly refusing requests. Between March 2018 and July 2019, 82 video requests made by the CCRB were denied because of the presence of minors under the age of 18, which the police department said was required under the state’s Family Court Act, according to the memo.</p> <p>“If you’re really interested in protecting young New Yorkers, if you’re really interested in improving relationships between the NYPD and those young people...then the best way to do that is by ensuring that we hold members of the police department in this city accountable,” CCRB Chair Davie said at the September board meeting.</p> <p>“Ensuring the city’s police oversight agency has the tools it needs to investigate this misconduct is the best way to protect” young people captured in body camera video, he added.</p> <p>Despite repeated attempts, NYPD representatives did not provide comment specifically for this story, particularly with regard to questions about denying video footage records requests because of ongoing IAB investigations, sealed arrests, or the presence of a minor.</p> <p>[READ:&nbsp;<a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8923-nypd-editing-body-camera-footage-policy-unit" target="_blank" rel="noopener">New NYPD Body Camera Footage Policy Raises Questions About Editing</a>]</p> <p>

***
by Ethan Geringer-Sameth, reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
Vast Difference in NYPD Provision of Body Camera Footage to District Attorneys Versus Police Watchdog 2019-11-11T05:00:00+00:00 2019-11-11T05:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8880-nypd-body-camera-footage-district-attorneys-ccrb Ben Max <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2019/first-comm-holds.jpg" alt="first comm holds" width="600" /></p> <p>(photo: William Alatriste/City Council)</p> <hr /> <p>One of the most visible changes to American policing in the wake of the controversial 2014 killings of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, two unarmed black men, by law enforcement, is the proliferation of body-worn cameras. But as the cameras become a larger part of the police oversight constellation in New York City, the NYPD has been slow to release footage to the very agency meant to investigate alleged officer misconduct, including excessive, even deadly, force.</p> <p>When Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the launch of phase one of the body-worn camera (BWC) program in 2017, it was billed as a transparency measure aimed at reducing “mistrust between police and community.” But the purported effort to improve police accountability has been more focused on producing evidence in criminal cases — where discovery laws now require it — and less on supporting misconduct investigations by the Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB), the main agency tasked with carrying them out.</p> <p>When an arrest is made, the arresting officer sends complete BWC footage of the event to prosecutors almost immediately and in raw, unedited form, according to spokespeople from several New York City district attorneys’ offices. But the NYPD has been delayed or completely delinquent in providing footage to the CCRB in roughly a third of the Board’s open cases — cases raised by civilians against police officers, including ones that may not have involved an arrest.</p> <p>The CCRB is a civilian body separate from the police department and district attorneys, with jurisdiction over claims of excessive force, abuse of authority, discourtesy, and offensive language. Its Board members are appointed by the mayor in conjunction with the City Council and police commissioner, and it is led by an executive director supervising roughly 180 employees. Under a 2012 agreement with the NYPD, the Board can prosecute allegations it substantiates in an administrative trial setting. Such a trial led outgoing Police Commissioner James O’Neill to fire Daniel Pantaleo this summer for misconduct during Garner’s fatal arrest.</p> <p>The de Blasio administration announced the completed roll-out of roughly 20,000 BWCs to all uniformed police officers in March, after two years piloting the program. Another 4,000 cameras have since been deployed to members of specialized NYPD units.</p> <p>Month-to-month data published by the CCRB in October shows that since the full implementation of body cameras was announced, between 29 and 37 percent of its open investigations have footage requests pending with the NYPD. Prosecutors, on the other hand, have received hundreds of thousands of BWC videos since the technology was adopted, and in most cases the footage is transmitted automatically following an arrest.</p> <p>Police officers are required to turn body cameras on during arrests, incidents where force is used, as well as certain stops and searches, patrols, and interactions with the public. The NYPD Patrol Guide also requires cameras be turned on during “potential crime-in-progress assignments,” including investigations into a “suspicious person” and any incident involving a weapon.</p> <p>As body cameras have proliferated across New York, they have become increasingly essential to the work of the Civilian Complaint Review Board, according to officials who say the evidence is “crucial” in investigating alleged misconduct -- the CCRB can only open a case when a civilian complaint is lodged.</p> <p>They are also used by prosecutors in nearly every criminal case and the footage now falls under the state’s discovery laws, which lawmakers overhauled this year.</p> <p>According to the communications director for Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez, Oren Yaniv, Gonzalez’s office has accessed over 140,000 body worn camera videos since 2018. Other district attorney offices also reported receiving thousands of BWC videos.</p> <p>Spokespeople for New York City district attorneys described a proprietary management system used by the NYPD that automatically transmits footage once an officer plugs their camera into a docking station and registers an arrest. “The NYPD system does not allow deleting, editing or altering the videos,” Yaniv wrote in an email.</p> <p><strong>Cooperating with the CCRB</strong><br />The CCRB’s requests are handled differently. The results can mean censored and incomplete footage and significant delays in responding to investigators, who are operating under a statute of limitations.</p> <p>Video footage, whether from a body-worn device, cell phone, or security camera, has become instrumental to CCRB investigations. In September, the CCRB substantiated 38 percent of misconduct allegations where video of the incident was available, compared with just 11 percent of cases where no video was available, according to an analysis released by the agency.</p> <p>“The reality of policing in New York City is that Eric Garner’s death in 2014 is not the only instance of police misconduct captured on video,” said CCRB Chair Fred Davie, at the agency’s September Board meeting.</p> <p>Body-worn cameras help the CCRB make conclusive determinations, “but we can do so only if we receive that body-worn camera footage and receive it from the NYPD in a timely fashion,” Davie said.</p> <p>Under the City Charter, the police department has a legal obligation to provide BWC video and other evidence to the CCRB, according to a CCRB representative. But, unlike prosecutors collecting evidence related to an arrest, the CCRB’s requests are subject to redaction and censorship, as well as delay.</p> <p>Before sending footage to the CCRB, the NYPD is legally required to “pixelate-out” people’s faces under certain circumstances captured on film, according to Al Baker, director of media relations at the police department. “For example, potential medical treatment (protected under federal law) or other prisoners in a cell whose arrest may be sealed,” he wrote in an email.</p> <p>“Also, we withhold the sex-crimes videos in their entirety, pursuant to CRL 50-b [part of the state’s civil rights statute], unless a waiver is provided by the victim of the sex crime. This is a meticulous process that is necessary before release,” he added.</p> <p>Baker said the department has a dedicated body-worn camera unit for processing requests, which he says has received additional personnel to address the “backlog.”</p> <p>CCRB officials are indeed concerned that “unless there is a significant change, the backlog of CCRB requests for video evidence will continue to increase and impair the CCRB’s ability to complete investigations within the 18-month statute of limitations,” according to <a href="https://twitter.com/CCRB_NYC/status/1172282548468310018" target="_blank" rel="noopener">a September tweet</a> from the Board’s account.</p> <p>“With all of its resources and technical expertise, the NYPD can and must produce body-camera footage much more quickly,” wrote Christopher Dunn, Legal Director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, in an email to Gotham Gazette.</p> <p>From January 2018 to November 7, 2019, the CCRB requested body camera footage in 5,149 investigations, according to data shared with Gotham Gazette. Throughout 2019, the number of requests has been between 300 and 400 per month, with two exceptions. The first month that the number of active body camera-involved cases reached 300 was in October 2018, five months before City Hall announced the full rollout of the cameras.</p> <p>But it wasn’t until the complete implementation in March of this year that the NYPD’s response rate precipitously fell. Between January 2018 and February 2019, the portion of CCRB cases awaiting NYPD body camera footage hovered between just 1 and 17 percent. Since March, that range has lept to between 29 and 37 percent.</p> <p>Footage in about 43 percent of requests is turned over by the NYPD to the CCRB within 30 days, and another 35 percent take between 30 and 60 days. In about 13 percent of footage requests by the CCRB — 79 cases as of the end of September — the calls have gone unanswered by the NYPD for more than 90 days.</p> <p>“Even now, there is one case in particular — an allegation of excessive force and a civilian experiencing several broken bones and brain hemorrhaging — for which our investigators per the NYPD cannot access the body-worn camera footage related to that case,” Davie said at the September Board meeting. The police department, he said, had denied the request in order to protect the privacy of a minor who was present in the relevant footage.</p> <p>Asked about the CCRB's trouble getting police body camera footage, the mayor's office said it is under review. “We are reviewing these reports, and we will work with PD and CCRB on next steps,” wrote Olivia Lapeyrolerie, a spokesperson for Mayor de Blasio, in an October email to Gotham Gazette.</p> <p>The City Council Committee on Public Safety plans to hold an oversight hearing on Monday, November 18 to examine the police department’s implementation of the cameras. The committee will discuss a bill introduced by Public Advocate Jumaane Williams that would require the NYPD to report information on the BWC program, including each incident where an officer uses their camera.</p> <p>Baker noted that the NYPD this year has the largest deployment of body cameras in the nation, “therefore, we need to locate all BWC footage from any responding officer to a particular scene and make sure it goes through that rigorous process before being released.”</p> <p>Even the process of releasing footage to the CCRB and the public has been opaque since the city’s rollout of BWCs, and remains so for the CCRB.</p> <p>The police department <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8896-nypd-releases-body-camera-footage-policy" target="_blank">recently published</a> a two-page policy, an “operations order” within the department, for release of body camera footage of what it calls “critical incidents” —&nbsp; cases of death or serious injury because of police force — to the public, seven months since full implementation of the cameras was announced.</p> <p>But while it discusses release of body camera footage to prosecutors and the public, the policy makes no explicit mention of footage capturing other potential misconduct that would fall under the CCRB’s jurisdiction. An NYPD spokesperson confirmed by phone that dealing with CCRB requests falls outside the newly-published policy.</p> <p>When asked if any written procedure exists, Baker wrote in an email, “That practice is constantly being fine-tuned to offer even faster turnarounds considering that a single request from the CCRB, about a single policing encounter, can mean that lengthy videos from dozens of officers must be carefully reviewed and possibly redacted.”</p> <p>

***
by Ethan Geringer-Sameth, reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2019/first-comm-holds.jpg" alt="first comm holds" width="600" /></p> <p>(photo: William Alatriste/City Council)</p> <hr /> <p>One of the most visible changes to American policing in the wake of the controversial 2014 killings of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, two unarmed black men, by law enforcement, is the proliferation of body-worn cameras. But as the cameras become a larger part of the police oversight constellation in New York City, the NYPD has been slow to release footage to the very agency meant to investigate alleged officer misconduct, including excessive, even deadly, force.</p> <p>When Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the launch of phase one of the body-worn camera (BWC) program in 2017, it was billed as a transparency measure aimed at reducing “mistrust between police and community.” But the purported effort to improve police accountability has been more focused on producing evidence in criminal cases — where discovery laws now require it — and less on supporting misconduct investigations by the Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB), the main agency tasked with carrying them out.</p> <p>When an arrest is made, the arresting officer sends complete BWC footage of the event to prosecutors almost immediately and in raw, unedited form, according to spokespeople from several New York City district attorneys’ offices. But the NYPD has been delayed or completely delinquent in providing footage to the CCRB in roughly a third of the Board’s open cases — cases raised by civilians against police officers, including ones that may not have involved an arrest.</p> <p>The CCRB is a civilian body separate from the police department and district attorneys, with jurisdiction over claims of excessive force, abuse of authority, discourtesy, and offensive language. Its Board members are appointed by the mayor in conjunction with the City Council and police commissioner, and it is led by an executive director supervising roughly 180 employees. Under a 2012 agreement with the NYPD, the Board can prosecute allegations it substantiates in an administrative trial setting. Such a trial led outgoing Police Commissioner James O’Neill to fire Daniel Pantaleo this summer for misconduct during Garner’s fatal arrest.</p> <p>The de Blasio administration announced the completed roll-out of roughly 20,000 BWCs to all uniformed police officers in March, after two years piloting the program. Another 4,000 cameras have since been deployed to members of specialized NYPD units.</p> <p>Month-to-month data published by the CCRB in October shows that since the full implementation of body cameras was announced, between 29 and 37 percent of its open investigations have footage requests pending with the NYPD. Prosecutors, on the other hand, have received hundreds of thousands of BWC videos since the technology was adopted, and in most cases the footage is transmitted automatically following an arrest.</p> <p>Police officers are required to turn body cameras on during arrests, incidents where force is used, as well as certain stops and searches, patrols, and interactions with the public. The NYPD Patrol Guide also requires cameras be turned on during “potential crime-in-progress assignments,” including investigations into a “suspicious person” and any incident involving a weapon.</p> <p>As body cameras have proliferated across New York, they have become increasingly essential to the work of the Civilian Complaint Review Board, according to officials who say the evidence is “crucial” in investigating alleged misconduct -- the CCRB can only open a case when a civilian complaint is lodged.</p> <p>They are also used by prosecutors in nearly every criminal case and the footage now falls under the state’s discovery laws, which lawmakers overhauled this year.</p> <p>According to the communications director for Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez, Oren Yaniv, Gonzalez’s office has accessed over 140,000 body worn camera videos since 2018. Other district attorney offices also reported receiving thousands of BWC videos.</p> <p>Spokespeople for New York City district attorneys described a proprietary management system used by the NYPD that automatically transmits footage once an officer plugs their camera into a docking station and registers an arrest. “The NYPD system does not allow deleting, editing or altering the videos,” Yaniv wrote in an email.</p> <p><strong>Cooperating with the CCRB</strong><br />The CCRB’s requests are handled differently. The results can mean censored and incomplete footage and significant delays in responding to investigators, who are operating under a statute of limitations.</p> <p>Video footage, whether from a body-worn device, cell phone, or security camera, has become instrumental to CCRB investigations. In September, the CCRB substantiated 38 percent of misconduct allegations where video of the incident was available, compared with just 11 percent of cases where no video was available, according to an analysis released by the agency.</p> <p>“The reality of policing in New York City is that Eric Garner’s death in 2014 is not the only instance of police misconduct captured on video,” said CCRB Chair Fred Davie, at the agency’s September Board meeting.</p> <p>Body-worn cameras help the CCRB make conclusive determinations, “but we can do so only if we receive that body-worn camera footage and receive it from the NYPD in a timely fashion,” Davie said.</p> <p>Under the City Charter, the police department has a legal obligation to provide BWC video and other evidence to the CCRB, according to a CCRB representative. But, unlike prosecutors collecting evidence related to an arrest, the CCRB’s requests are subject to redaction and censorship, as well as delay.</p> <p>Before sending footage to the CCRB, the NYPD is legally required to “pixelate-out” people’s faces under certain circumstances captured on film, according to Al Baker, director of media relations at the police department. “For example, potential medical treatment (protected under federal law) or other prisoners in a cell whose arrest may be sealed,” he wrote in an email.</p> <p>“Also, we withhold the sex-crimes videos in their entirety, pursuant to CRL 50-b [part of the state’s civil rights statute], unless a waiver is provided by the victim of the sex crime. This is a meticulous process that is necessary before release,” he added.</p> <p>Baker said the department has a dedicated body-worn camera unit for processing requests, which he says has received additional personnel to address the “backlog.”</p> <p>CCRB officials are indeed concerned that “unless there is a significant change, the backlog of CCRB requests for video evidence will continue to increase and impair the CCRB’s ability to complete investigations within the 18-month statute of limitations,” according to <a href="https://twitter.com/CCRB_NYC/status/1172282548468310018" target="_blank" rel="noopener">a September tweet</a> from the Board’s account.</p> <p>“With all of its resources and technical expertise, the NYPD can and must produce body-camera footage much more quickly,” wrote Christopher Dunn, Legal Director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, in an email to Gotham Gazette.</p> <p>From January 2018 to November 7, 2019, the CCRB requested body camera footage in 5,149 investigations, according to data shared with Gotham Gazette. Throughout 2019, the number of requests has been between 300 and 400 per month, with two exceptions. The first month that the number of active body camera-involved cases reached 300 was in October 2018, five months before City Hall announced the full rollout of the cameras.</p> <p>But it wasn’t until the complete implementation in March of this year that the NYPD’s response rate precipitously fell. Between January 2018 and February 2019, the portion of CCRB cases awaiting NYPD body camera footage hovered between just 1 and 17 percent. Since March, that range has lept to between 29 and 37 percent.</p> <p>Footage in about 43 percent of requests is turned over by the NYPD to the CCRB within 30 days, and another 35 percent take between 30 and 60 days. In about 13 percent of footage requests by the CCRB — 79 cases as of the end of September — the calls have gone unanswered by the NYPD for more than 90 days.</p> <p>“Even now, there is one case in particular — an allegation of excessive force and a civilian experiencing several broken bones and brain hemorrhaging — for which our investigators per the NYPD cannot access the body-worn camera footage related to that case,” Davie said at the September Board meeting. The police department, he said, had denied the request in order to protect the privacy of a minor who was present in the relevant footage.</p> <p>Asked about the CCRB's trouble getting police body camera footage, the mayor's office said it is under review. “We are reviewing these reports, and we will work with PD and CCRB on next steps,” wrote Olivia Lapeyrolerie, a spokesperson for Mayor de Blasio, in an October email to Gotham Gazette.</p> <p>The City Council Committee on Public Safety plans to hold an oversight hearing on Monday, November 18 to examine the police department’s implementation of the cameras. The committee will discuss a bill introduced by Public Advocate Jumaane Williams that would require the NYPD to report information on the BWC program, including each incident where an officer uses their camera.</p> <p>Baker noted that the NYPD this year has the largest deployment of body cameras in the nation, “therefore, we need to locate all BWC footage from any responding officer to a particular scene and make sure it goes through that rigorous process before being released.”</p> <p>Even the process of releasing footage to the CCRB and the public has been opaque since the city’s rollout of BWCs, and remains so for the CCRB.</p> <p>The police department <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8896-nypd-releases-body-camera-footage-policy" target="_blank">recently published</a> a two-page policy, an “operations order” within the department, for release of body camera footage of what it calls “critical incidents” —&nbsp; cases of death or serious injury because of police force — to the public, seven months since full implementation of the cameras was announced.</p> <p>But while it discusses release of body camera footage to prosecutors and the public, the policy makes no explicit mention of footage capturing other potential misconduct that would fall under the CCRB’s jurisdiction. An NYPD spokesperson confirmed by phone that dealing with CCRB requests falls outside the newly-published policy.</p> <p>When asked if any written procedure exists, Baker wrote in an email, “That practice is constantly being fine-tuned to offer even faster turnarounds considering that a single request from the CCRB, about a single policing encounter, can mean that lengthy videos from dozens of officers must be carefully reviewed and possibly redacted.”</p> <p>

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by Ethan Geringer-Sameth, reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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</p>
Police Union Spends on Ads to Defeat Ballot Question 2 2019-10-30T04:00:00+00:00 2019-10-30T04:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8890-police-union-pba-spends-on-ads-to-defeat-ballot-question-2-ccrb-nypd Ben Max <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2019/pba_ie_need_help_q2_2019.png" alt="pba ie need help q2 2019" width="350" height="434" /></p> <p>(photo: Police Benevolent Association Independent Expenditure Committee)</p> <hr /> <p>The city’s largest police union is spending significantly to defeat a ballot proposal that <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8848-significant-nypd-oversight-reforms-fall-ballot-ccrb" target="_blank" rel="noopener">experts say</a> will bolster the authority and performance of the civilian city agency tasked with investigating alleged misconduct and abuse of power by NYPD officers.</p> <p>Voters are being presented <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8869-the-fine-print-on-your-ballot-charter-questions" target="_blank" rel="noopener">five “yes” or “no” questions</a> on the back of this fall’s ballot that propose 19 specific changes to the city charter. If approved by voters, <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8848-significant-nypd-oversight-reforms-fall-ballot-ccrb" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Question 2</a> would enhance the operational capacity of the Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB), the oversight agency, and make some cases of lying to its investigators a form of police misconduct under its jurisdiction.</p> <p>The Police Benevolent Association, which represents 24,000 rank-and-file NYPD officers, has been vociferously opposing that question and, as of Tuesday afternoon, had reported roughly $127,000 in independent expenditures on communications to defeat it on the ballot.</p> <p>According to independent expenditure disclosures reported to the city’s Campaign Finance Board, the PBA began spending on print ads and mass mailing last Monday. Over five days, the union spent $59,547.84 on print ads and another $68,083.32 on mass mailings.</p> <p>The communications contain messages describing the CCRB as biased against police officers and the ballot question as a power grab by the civilian agency. They contain images of protestors or the apparent aftermath of violent crime.</p> <p>The text on one ad reads: “Political extremists and cop-haters have been attacking police officers in the streets for years. Now, they’re doing it at the ballot box.” In large letters in the margins are the words, “If you stay home, they win.”</p> <p>It is unclear exactly where the PBA campaign funding is coming from. By city law, donations to independent expenditure committees focused on ballot referenda -- unlike IEs supporting candidates -- do not have to publicly disclose their contributors, according to a New York City Campaign Finance Board spokesperson. But the spokesperson said that state law does require such reporting, but no disclosures have been published on the state Board of Elections website, where they should appear if filed.</p> <p>The proposed amendments on the ballot were developed by a charter revision commission with commissioners appointed by Mayor Bill de Blasio, the New York City Council, Comptroller Scott Stringer, then-Public Advocate Letitia James, and the five borough presidents. Its job was to explore the city charter and propose reforms directly to voters that could not be easily accomplished through the city’s usual lawmaking process.</p> <p>In addition to Question 2 related to the CCRB, the questions include amendments in four other areas: elections, ethics and governance, budget, and land use.</p> <p>In addition to the provision on police lying, which has surfaced as the most controversial proposal, CCRB officials and police reform advocates say Question 2 would help the civilian agency achieve its mandate to investigate, substantiate, and prosecute complaints of misconduct and abuse of power by police officers. The proposed amendment would give the CCRB a guaranteed baseline in annual budget negotiations and would allow its Board members to delegate subpoena power to the executive director. It would also expand the size of the Board and slightly alter who makes appointments to it. And it would codify an agreement between the NYPD and CCRB requiring the police commissioner to provide justification when rejecting a CCRB disciplinary recommendation.</p> <p>Gotham Gazette <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8867-police-officers-union-launches-campaign-to-defeat-nypd-oversight-ballot-measure" target="_blank" rel="noopener">first reported that the PBA launched a campaign</a> imploring its members and allies to vote “no” on Question 2 last week.</p> <p>City Council Members Joe Borelli and Bob Holden will hold a rally with PBA President Pat Lynch and other law enforcement union leaders on Staten Island Thursday to urge the public to vote “no” on Question 2.</p> <p>Borelli, who is the Republican nominee for public advocate, recently told Gotham Gazette that while he opposes Question 2 and will be voting against it, he sees favorably the provision to bring suspected false police statements under CCRB jurisdiction.</p> <p>“If that was a stand-alone bill I’d probably support that,” he said in an interview earlier this month. “Because what is the point of having a court if you can’t validate a statement people make while they are swearing...before it. That to me is not a problem.”</p> <p>With its 24,000 members, the PBA campaign could be particularly impactful in what is expected to be a low turnout election. The digital ads appear to have first been posted on the website and on the PBA’s social media accounts last Monday, and posters have been reportedly up in precincts for the last month, <a href="https://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/nyc-crime/ny-police-union-fighting-expansion-of-ccrbs-powers-20191027-6jqegeggprdankq2nyx5ouuw7u-story.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">according to the Daily News</a>. It is unclear who the recipients of the mailers have been.</p> <p>In response to the PBA ads, the CCRB <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8884-civilian-complaint-review-board-responds-to-police-union-pba-nypd-charter-ballot" target="_blank" rel="noopener">published a fact sheet on its website</a> aimed at dispelling what it called “myth” being promoted by the police officers union.</p> <p>Each PBA ad includes a disclaimer noting it was paid for by the Police Benevolent Association Independent Expenditure Committee, which is not required on material promoting ballot referenda, according to a Campaign Finance Board official. Unlike independent expenditures for candidates, committees promoting a vote on ballot referenda are also not required to disclose contributors. In this case, the PBA has not reported any of its contributors.</p> <p>By comparison, the only other independent expenditures reported to the Campaign Finance Board for this fall’s election were made by Committee for Ranked Choice Voting NYC, backed by a coalition of election reformers and elected officials <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8802-push-launched-to-get-voters-to-choose-ranked-choice-voting" target="_blank" rel="noopener">who support a new voting method for some city elections</a>, contained in Question 1. The group has spent roughly $447,000 in support of Question 1, and has disclosed the sources of approximately $83,000 in contributions.</p> <p>No independent expenditures in support of Question 2 have been reported to the Campaign Finance Board. Voters can cast their ballots during the current early voting period through November 3, or on Election Day, November 5.</p> <p>[READ: <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8848-significant-nypd-oversight-reforms-fall-ballot-ccrb" target="_blank" rel="noopener">There are NYPD Oversight Measures on the Ballot - How Significant are They?</a>]</p> <p>

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by Ethan Geringer-Sameth, reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Note: this article has been updated with additional information and clarification around city and state disclosure requirements for spending by IEs related to ballot referenda.</p>
<p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2019/pba_ie_need_help_q2_2019.png" alt="pba ie need help q2 2019" width="350" height="434" /></p> <p>(photo: Police Benevolent Association Independent Expenditure Committee)</p> <hr /> <p>The city’s largest police union is spending significantly to defeat a ballot proposal that <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8848-significant-nypd-oversight-reforms-fall-ballot-ccrb" target="_blank" rel="noopener">experts say</a> will bolster the authority and performance of the civilian city agency tasked with investigating alleged misconduct and abuse of power by NYPD officers.</p> <p>Voters are being presented <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8869-the-fine-print-on-your-ballot-charter-questions" target="_blank" rel="noopener">five “yes” or “no” questions</a> on the back of this fall’s ballot that propose 19 specific changes to the city charter. If approved by voters, <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8848-significant-nypd-oversight-reforms-fall-ballot-ccrb" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Question 2</a> would enhance the operational capacity of the Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB), the oversight agency, and make some cases of lying to its investigators a form of police misconduct under its jurisdiction.</p> <p>The Police Benevolent Association, which represents 24,000 rank-and-file NYPD officers, has been vociferously opposing that question and, as of Tuesday afternoon, had reported roughly $127,000 in independent expenditures on communications to defeat it on the ballot.</p> <p>According to independent expenditure disclosures reported to the city’s Campaign Finance Board, the PBA began spending on print ads and mass mailing last Monday. Over five days, the union spent $59,547.84 on print ads and another $68,083.32 on mass mailings.</p> <p>The communications contain messages describing the CCRB as biased against police officers and the ballot question as a power grab by the civilian agency. They contain images of protestors or the apparent aftermath of violent crime.</p> <p>The text on one ad reads: “Political extremists and cop-haters have been attacking police officers in the streets for years. Now, they’re doing it at the ballot box.” In large letters in the margins are the words, “If you stay home, they win.”</p> <p>It is unclear exactly where the PBA campaign funding is coming from. By city law, donations to independent expenditure committees focused on ballot referenda -- unlike IEs supporting candidates -- do not have to publicly disclose their contributors, according to a New York City Campaign Finance Board spokesperson. But the spokesperson said that state law does require such reporting, but no disclosures have been published on the state Board of Elections website, where they should appear if filed.</p> <p>The proposed amendments on the ballot were developed by a charter revision commission with commissioners appointed by Mayor Bill de Blasio, the New York City Council, Comptroller Scott Stringer, then-Public Advocate Letitia James, and the five borough presidents. Its job was to explore the city charter and propose reforms directly to voters that could not be easily accomplished through the city’s usual lawmaking process.</p> <p>In addition to Question 2 related to the CCRB, the questions include amendments in four other areas: elections, ethics and governance, budget, and land use.</p> <p>In addition to the provision on police lying, which has surfaced as the most controversial proposal, CCRB officials and police reform advocates say Question 2 would help the civilian agency achieve its mandate to investigate, substantiate, and prosecute complaints of misconduct and abuse of power by police officers. The proposed amendment would give the CCRB a guaranteed baseline in annual budget negotiations and would allow its Board members to delegate subpoena power to the executive director. It would also expand the size of the Board and slightly alter who makes appointments to it. And it would codify an agreement between the NYPD and CCRB requiring the police commissioner to provide justification when rejecting a CCRB disciplinary recommendation.</p> <p>Gotham Gazette <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8867-police-officers-union-launches-campaign-to-defeat-nypd-oversight-ballot-measure" target="_blank" rel="noopener">first reported that the PBA launched a campaign</a> imploring its members and allies to vote “no” on Question 2 last week.</p> <p>City Council Members Joe Borelli and Bob Holden will hold a rally with PBA President Pat Lynch and other law enforcement union leaders on Staten Island Thursday to urge the public to vote “no” on Question 2.</p> <p>Borelli, who is the Republican nominee for public advocate, recently told Gotham Gazette that while he opposes Question 2 and will be voting against it, he sees favorably the provision to bring suspected false police statements under CCRB jurisdiction.</p> <p>“If that was a stand-alone bill I’d probably support that,” he said in an interview earlier this month. “Because what is the point of having a court if you can’t validate a statement people make while they are swearing...before it. That to me is not a problem.”</p> <p>With its 24,000 members, the PBA campaign could be particularly impactful in what is expected to be a low turnout election. The digital ads appear to have first been posted on the website and on the PBA’s social media accounts last Monday, and posters have been reportedly up in precincts for the last month, <a href="https://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/nyc-crime/ny-police-union-fighting-expansion-of-ccrbs-powers-20191027-6jqegeggprdankq2nyx5ouuw7u-story.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">according to the Daily News</a>. It is unclear who the recipients of the mailers have been.</p> <p>In response to the PBA ads, the CCRB <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8884-civilian-complaint-review-board-responds-to-police-union-pba-nypd-charter-ballot" target="_blank" rel="noopener">published a fact sheet on its website</a> aimed at dispelling what it called “myth” being promoted by the police officers union.</p> <p>Each PBA ad includes a disclaimer noting it was paid for by the Police Benevolent Association Independent Expenditure Committee, which is not required on material promoting ballot referenda, according to a Campaign Finance Board official. Unlike independent expenditures for candidates, committees promoting a vote on ballot referenda are also not required to disclose contributors. In this case, the PBA has not reported any of its contributors.</p> <p>By comparison, the only other independent expenditures reported to the Campaign Finance Board for this fall’s election were made by Committee for Ranked Choice Voting NYC, backed by a coalition of election reformers and elected officials <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8802-push-launched-to-get-voters-to-choose-ranked-choice-voting" target="_blank" rel="noopener">who support a new voting method for some city elections</a>, contained in Question 1. The group has spent roughly $447,000 in support of Question 1, and has disclosed the sources of approximately $83,000 in contributions.</p> <p>No independent expenditures in support of Question 2 have been reported to the Campaign Finance Board. Voters can cast their ballots during the current early voting period through November 3, or on Election Day, November 5.</p> <p>[READ: <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8848-significant-nypd-oversight-reforms-fall-ballot-ccrb" target="_blank" rel="noopener">There are NYPD Oversight Measures on the Ballot - How Significant are They?</a>]</p> <p>

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by Ethan Geringer-Sameth, reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Note: this article has been updated with additional information and clarification around city and state disclosure requirements for spending by IEs related to ballot referenda.</p>
De Blasio Dodges Questions About His Stance on Ballot Proposals 2019-10-29T04:00:00+00:00 2019-10-29T04:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8886-de-blasio-dodges-questions-stance-ballot-proposals-charter-revision Ben Max <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2019/first-day-voting.jpg" alt="first day voting" width="600" /></p> <p>Mayor de Blasio &amp; First Lady McCray vote (photo: Michael Appleton/Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>Mayor Bill de Blasio is dodging questions about his position on a series of ballot referenda that propose changes to city elections and governance. In two interviews Friday and Monday, the mayor avoided giving any specifics when asked repeatedly to discuss the proposed amendments to the city charter, all of which impact city services and administration, and he refused to say how he voted on them.</p> <p>The ballot this year has <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8869-the-fine-print-on-your-ballot-charter-questions">five “yes” or “no” questions</a> containing 19 distinct changes to the city’s core body of laws, which voters have the opportunity to approve or reject in the final stage of a unique amendment process in New York City. The proposals were placed on the ballot by a commission created by City Council legislation and appointed by a spread of city elected officials, including the mayor. The goal was to identify areas of reform in the charter that could not be easily addressed through the typical legislative process, and put them directly to voters.</p> <p>De Blasio cast his ballot in Brooklyn on Saturday, the first day of the new nine-day period of early voting. (Registered voters have until November 3 to vote early; Election Day is on November 5.) Along with just a few candidate races, the ballot contains significant potential reforms, including to how some elections are run, how police oversight is carried out, how budgeting is done, and more.</p> <p>“On the 19 separate questions, I’m not going to get into parsing what I feel on each one. I can give you a broad answer which is my team, my administration fully participated in this commission,” de Blasio said during his usual Friday morning <a href="https://www.wnyc.org/story/the-brian-lehrer-show-2019-10-25">interview on WNYC’s The Brian Lehrer Show</a>, inaccurately describing the ballot proposals, which come in five questions.</p> <p>The 15-member charter revision commission was designed to give no one entity a majority of appointments. Council Speaker Corey Johnson and de Blasio each selected four commissioners, with one appointee made by each of the comptroller, public advocate, and five borough presidents (Johnson selected the chair from his appointees).</p> <p>When pressed by Lehrer to give more details on how he feels about -- and would vote on -- the potentially impactful provisions, de Blasio repeated his stance about the charter revision process while evading questions about how he intended to vote.</p> <p>“I am comfortable with the overall result of this commission and my main point to people is I think they did good work and I think everyone should vote,” he said.</p> <p>He maintained his posture about the charter revision process and questions when asked again by Errol Louis <a href="https://www.ny1.com/nyc/all-boroughs/inside-city-hall/2019/10/29/mondays-with-the-mayor-student-homeless-numbers-over-100000-bill-de-blasio-responds">on NY1’s Inside City Hall</a> Monday evening. Having voted over the weekend, he wanted to keep his ballot secret. “I have a blanket rule, I mean obviously everyone’s vote is personal, and I respect that in everyone else,” de Blasio said.</p> <p>The five ballot questions cover general categories, each outlining more granular measures. Voters can weigh-in on charter changes to the city’s elections, Civilian Complaint Review Board, ethics and governance, budget, and land use.</p> <p>De Blasio was asked directly about his positions on Questions 1 and 2, which have received the vast majority of public attention on the ballot proposals.</p> <p>Question 1 on the ballot asks voters if they support for primary and special elections a system of ranked-choice voting, a balloting method that lets voters list candidates by preference rather selecting one in an all-or-nothing fashion. It would eliminate costly party primary run-off elections and help show broader support for the winner of crowded primaries and special elections. That proposed change has the backing of a coalition of election reform advocates and elected officials who have been promoting a “yes” vote on the question <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8802-push-launched-to-get-voters-to-choose-ranked-choice-voting">since September</a>. There is no evident organized opposition to the proposal.</p> <p>When asked directly by Louis, de Blasio expressed interest in ranked-choice voting but raised questions about what impact it would have on political participation and representation.</p> <p>“We do know an advantage is it doesn’t require a runoff and therefore saves money and saves time and energy, and it’s true that a lot of those runoffs have been lower turnout,” the mayor said Monday. (De Blasio, himself, won a runoff for the Democratic nomination for public advocate in 2009.)</p> <p>“I don’t think it’s 100 percent clear what it will yield but I’m certainly hopeful about it,” he added, giving an inkling of support.</p> <p><a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8848-significant-nypd-oversight-reforms-fall-ballot-ccrb">Question 2</a>, related to strengthening the police oversight function of the Civilian Complaint Review Board, has emerged as the most controversial piece of the proposed charter revisions. Among other things, the amendment would allow the CCRB to examine officers suspected of giving false testimony while under investigation for misconduct. If those suspicions are substantiated the agency could then bring charges in an administrative trial setting.</p> <p>The CCRB recently led the high-profile prosecution of Daniel Pantaleo, the officer who placed Eric Garner in a deadly chokehold on Staten Island in 2014. The prosecution and conviction in an NYPD administrative trial led Police Commissioner James O’Neill to dismiss Pantaleo from the force in August.</p> <p>CCRB officials say Question 2, if passed by voters, would also streamline the civilian agency’s operations by giving the executive director subpoena power and providing a baseline for its annual budget. Other provisions in Question 2 would codify existing practices, expand the number of appointments to the board and slightly alter who makes them (currently all the Board members go through the mayor).</p> <p>The proposal has raised the ire of the Police Benevolent Association, the city’s largest law enforcement union, which last week <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8867-police-officers-union-launches-campaign-to-defeat-nypd-oversight-ballot-measure">launched a campaign</a> urging its members and allies to vote “no.” The PBA on its website and in <a href="https://twitter.com/NYCPBA/status/1186312986497040384">posts to social media</a> has described Question 2 as a “power grab” by an agency with a “rampant anti-police bias.” <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8884-civilian-complaint-review-board-responds-to-police-union-pba-nypd-charter-ballot">In response</a>, the CCRB released a “fact sheet” aimed at debunking what it describes as “myth” propagated by the police officers union.</p> <p>Both Lehrer and Louis directly asked the mayor about his position on Question 2. In both instances he refused to discuss any particulars on the proposal and responded generally about the charter revision process.</p> <p>“Because it’s 19 different subset questions I’m going to stay broad but say, yeah, we participated. In the end, again, I think the broad product of that charter commission was good. I think a lot of good work went into it. But again I’m not going to get into parsing on each of the questions,” he told Louis Monday.</p> <p>Despite the mayor taking no public position, Gotham Gazette reported in June that administration representatives sought to <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8632-de-blasio-reps-sought-to-kill-police-accountability-measure">secretly influence</a> the charter revision commissioners in an attempt to kill the controversial proposal to allow the CCRB to pursue officers found to be lying to misconduct investigators.</p> <p>De Blasio was not specifically asked about Questions 3, 4, and 5, which include an extended moratorium on former elected officials lobbying city government; a provision allowing the city to create a “rainy day” savings fund; and changes to the land use review process.</p> <p>On October 17, nine days before the start of early voting, administration spokesperson Will Baskin-Gerwitz told Gotham Gazette, “Mayor de Blasio continues to review the Charter revision questions that will be on the ballot.”</p> <p>Other top elected officials who appointed members of the 2019 Charter Revision Commission have <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8876-top-city-officials-who-appointed-the-2019-charter-revision-commission-stand-proposals-de-blasio-johnson">taken positions</a> on the proposals, mostly in response to Gotham Gazette inquiries: Comptroller Scott Stringer and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer both said they support all five ballot questions. Johnson and Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams support Question 1 (ranked-choice voting) but have not expressed opinions on the others. Public Advocate Jumaane Williams also said he supports all five questions, though he did not make an appointment to the commission (that was his predecessor, Letitia James).</p> <p>Meanwhile, James, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr., and Staten Island Borough President James Oddo did not respond to Gotham Gazette inquiries about their positions on the proposals. Queens Borough President Melinda Katz declined to comment.</p> <p>

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by Ethan Geringer-Sameth, reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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<p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2019/first-day-voting.jpg" alt="first day voting" width="600" /></p> <p>Mayor de Blasio &amp; First Lady McCray vote (photo: Michael Appleton/Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>Mayor Bill de Blasio is dodging questions about his position on a series of ballot referenda that propose changes to city elections and governance. In two interviews Friday and Monday, the mayor avoided giving any specifics when asked repeatedly to discuss the proposed amendments to the city charter, all of which impact city services and administration, and he refused to say how he voted on them.</p> <p>The ballot this year has <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8869-the-fine-print-on-your-ballot-charter-questions">five “yes” or “no” questions</a> containing 19 distinct changes to the city’s core body of laws, which voters have the opportunity to approve or reject in the final stage of a unique amendment process in New York City. The proposals were placed on the ballot by a commission created by City Council legislation and appointed by a spread of city elected officials, including the mayor. The goal was to identify areas of reform in the charter that could not be easily addressed through the typical legislative process, and put them directly to voters.</p> <p>De Blasio cast his ballot in Brooklyn on Saturday, the first day of the new nine-day period of early voting. (Registered voters have until November 3 to vote early; Election Day is on November 5.) Along with just a few candidate races, the ballot contains significant potential reforms, including to how some elections are run, how police oversight is carried out, how budgeting is done, and more.</p> <p>“On the 19 separate questions, I’m not going to get into parsing what I feel on each one. I can give you a broad answer which is my team, my administration fully participated in this commission,” de Blasio said during his usual Friday morning <a href="https://www.wnyc.org/story/the-brian-lehrer-show-2019-10-25">interview on WNYC’s The Brian Lehrer Show</a>, inaccurately describing the ballot proposals, which come in five questions.</p> <p>The 15-member charter revision commission was designed to give no one entity a majority of appointments. Council Speaker Corey Johnson and de Blasio each selected four commissioners, with one appointee made by each of the comptroller, public advocate, and five borough presidents (Johnson selected the chair from his appointees).</p> <p>When pressed by Lehrer to give more details on how he feels about -- and would vote on -- the potentially impactful provisions, de Blasio repeated his stance about the charter revision process while evading questions about how he intended to vote.</p> <p>“I am comfortable with the overall result of this commission and my main point to people is I think they did good work and I think everyone should vote,” he said.</p> <p>He maintained his posture about the charter revision process and questions when asked again by Errol Louis <a href="https://www.ny1.com/nyc/all-boroughs/inside-city-hall/2019/10/29/mondays-with-the-mayor-student-homeless-numbers-over-100000-bill-de-blasio-responds">on NY1’s Inside City Hall</a> Monday evening. Having voted over the weekend, he wanted to keep his ballot secret. “I have a blanket rule, I mean obviously everyone’s vote is personal, and I respect that in everyone else,” de Blasio said.</p> <p>The five ballot questions cover general categories, each outlining more granular measures. Voters can weigh-in on charter changes to the city’s elections, Civilian Complaint Review Board, ethics and governance, budget, and land use.</p> <p>De Blasio was asked directly about his positions on Questions 1 and 2, which have received the vast majority of public attention on the ballot proposals.</p> <p>Question 1 on the ballot asks voters if they support for primary and special elections a system of ranked-choice voting, a balloting method that lets voters list candidates by preference rather selecting one in an all-or-nothing fashion. It would eliminate costly party primary run-off elections and help show broader support for the winner of crowded primaries and special elections. That proposed change has the backing of a coalition of election reform advocates and elected officials who have been promoting a “yes” vote on the question <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8802-push-launched-to-get-voters-to-choose-ranked-choice-voting">since September</a>. There is no evident organized opposition to the proposal.</p> <p>When asked directly by Louis, de Blasio expressed interest in ranked-choice voting but raised questions about what impact it would have on political participation and representation.</p> <p>“We do know an advantage is it doesn’t require a runoff and therefore saves money and saves time and energy, and it’s true that a lot of those runoffs have been lower turnout,” the mayor said Monday. (De Blasio, himself, won a runoff for the Democratic nomination for public advocate in 2009.)</p> <p>“I don’t think it’s 100 percent clear what it will yield but I’m certainly hopeful about it,” he added, giving an inkling of support.</p> <p><a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8848-significant-nypd-oversight-reforms-fall-ballot-ccrb">Question 2</a>, related to strengthening the police oversight function of the Civilian Complaint Review Board, has emerged as the most controversial piece of the proposed charter revisions. Among other things, the amendment would allow the CCRB to examine officers suspected of giving false testimony while under investigation for misconduct. If those suspicions are substantiated the agency could then bring charges in an administrative trial setting.</p> <p>The CCRB recently led the high-profile prosecution of Daniel Pantaleo, the officer who placed Eric Garner in a deadly chokehold on Staten Island in 2014. The prosecution and conviction in an NYPD administrative trial led Police Commissioner James O’Neill to dismiss Pantaleo from the force in August.</p> <p>CCRB officials say Question 2, if passed by voters, would also streamline the civilian agency’s operations by giving the executive director subpoena power and providing a baseline for its annual budget. Other provisions in Question 2 would codify existing practices, expand the number of appointments to the board and slightly alter who makes them (currently all the Board members go through the mayor).</p> <p>The proposal has raised the ire of the Police Benevolent Association, the city’s largest law enforcement union, which last week <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8867-police-officers-union-launches-campaign-to-defeat-nypd-oversight-ballot-measure">launched a campaign</a> urging its members and allies to vote “no.” The PBA on its website and in <a href="https://twitter.com/NYCPBA/status/1186312986497040384">posts to social media</a> has described Question 2 as a “power grab” by an agency with a “rampant anti-police bias.” <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8884-civilian-complaint-review-board-responds-to-police-union-pba-nypd-charter-ballot">In response</a>, the CCRB released a “fact sheet” aimed at debunking what it describes as “myth” propagated by the police officers union.</p> <p>Both Lehrer and Louis directly asked the mayor about his position on Question 2. In both instances he refused to discuss any particulars on the proposal and responded generally about the charter revision process.</p> <p>“Because it’s 19 different subset questions I’m going to stay broad but say, yeah, we participated. In the end, again, I think the broad product of that charter commission was good. I think a lot of good work went into it. But again I’m not going to get into parsing on each of the questions,” he told Louis Monday.</p> <p>Despite the mayor taking no public position, Gotham Gazette reported in June that administration representatives sought to <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8632-de-blasio-reps-sought-to-kill-police-accountability-measure">secretly influence</a> the charter revision commissioners in an attempt to kill the controversial proposal to allow the CCRB to pursue officers found to be lying to misconduct investigators.</p> <p>De Blasio was not specifically asked about Questions 3, 4, and 5, which include an extended moratorium on former elected officials lobbying city government; a provision allowing the city to create a “rainy day” savings fund; and changes to the land use review process.</p> <p>On October 17, nine days before the start of early voting, administration spokesperson Will Baskin-Gerwitz told Gotham Gazette, “Mayor de Blasio continues to review the Charter revision questions that will be on the ballot.”</p> <p>Other top elected officials who appointed members of the 2019 Charter Revision Commission have <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8876-top-city-officials-who-appointed-the-2019-charter-revision-commission-stand-proposals-de-blasio-johnson">taken positions</a> on the proposals, mostly in response to Gotham Gazette inquiries: Comptroller Scott Stringer and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer both said they support all five ballot questions. Johnson and Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams support Question 1 (ranked-choice voting) but have not expressed opinions on the others. Public Advocate Jumaane Williams also said he supports all five questions, though he did not make an appointment to the commission (that was his predecessor, Letitia James).</p> <p>Meanwhile, James, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr., and Staten Island Borough President James Oddo did not respond to Gotham Gazette inquiries about their positions on the proposals. Queens Borough President Melinda Katz declined to comment.</p> <p>

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by Ethan Geringer-Sameth, reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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Civilian Complaint Review Board Refutes Police Union's 'Myths' About Ballot Proposals and Its NYPD Oversight Work 2019-10-28T04:00:00+00:00 2019-10-28T04:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8884-civilian-complaint-review-board-responds-to-police-union-pba-nypd-charter-ballot Ben Max <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2019/mayor-pd-comm.jpg" alt="mayor pd comm" width="600" /></p> <p>(photo: Benjamin Kanter/Mayoral Photo Office)</p> <hr /> <p>The Civilian Complaint Review Board has responded to the Police Benevolent Association’s efforts to kill a ballot referendum that would enhance the agency’s powers. The CCRB began promoting a <a href="https://www1.nyc.gov/site/ccrb/about/outreach/charter2019.page" target="_blank" rel="noopener">fact sheet</a> on its website and social media Friday aimed at “correcting misinformation” days after the launch of the PBA’s campaign, calling the union’s communications “myth” as it seeks a “no” vote on ballot question two.</p> <p>Last week, the PBA began <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8867-police-officers-union-launches-campaign-to-defeat-nypd-oversight-ballot-measure" target="_blank">urging its members</a> and allies to vote “no” on the ballot proposal before voters this fall and has a statement of opposition to the measure in the city’s official voter guide, Gotham Gazette first reported. The set of proposals -- question two of five -- would amend the city charter to expand the CCRB’s operational capacity and jurisdiction, while also tweaking how appointments to the board are made and requiring more transparency and communication from the police commissioner.</p> <p>All five ballot questions contain proposed changes to the charter developed by a multilateral commission tasked with examining the city’s central governing document. Voters can approve or disapprove of each during the October 26-November 3 early voting period or on Election Day, November 5.</p> <p><a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8848-significant-nypd-oversight-reforms-fall-ballot-ccrb" target="_blank">Question 2</a> on the ballot includes four changes that CCRB officials say would improve the administration of its mandate and a fifth that would expand its jurisdiction to allow it to look into allegations of officers suspected of lying while under investigation for misconduct.</p> <p>The administrative changes would allow the Board to delegate subpoena power to the executive director and guarantee its budget based on a formula tied to the NYPD’s officer headcount. The proposals would also increase the size and appointments to the Board and require the police commissioner to explain to the CCRB when deviating from the agency’s disciplinary recommendations.</p> <p>Police reform advocates and the CCRB chair, Fred Davie, believe the changes to the city charter amount to a small shift in the powers and performance of the agency but will add layers of accountability to the police department. The CCRB is a civilian agency separate from the NYPD and tasked with investigating civilian-reported complaints of police officer misconduct in a limited set of circumstances: when excessive force or offensive language may have been used, or when police officers are said to have abused their authority or acted discourteously.</p> <p>In opposing the proposed reforms in Question 2, the PBA, the city’s largest law enforcement union, posted to its website and social media claims that the measure constituted a large-scale “power grab” by a police oversight agency with a history of “anti-police bias.”</p> <p>Debate over the ballot measure comes just months after the CCRB prosecuted Officer Daniel Pantaleo for misconduct in the arrest that led to Eric Garner’s death on Staten Island in 2014. That departmental trial led to Pantaleo’s dismissal by NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill despite the PBA’s assertion that Pantaleo did nothing wrong.</p> <p>The CCRB fact sheet attempts to illuminate seven of what the page refers to as “myths” promulgated by the PBA as part of its campaign against the ballot measure.</p> <p>Citing a statement of opposition submitted by the PBA and <a href="http://www.nyccfb.info/nyc-votes/vgwelcome/general-election-2019/ballot-proposals/ballot-question-2-civilian-complaint-review-board/?languageType=English" target="_blank" rel="noopener">published in the city’s voter guide</a>, the CCRB takes issue with the police union’s description of Question 2 as giving the CCRB “sweeping new powers.” The fact sheet emphasizes that only one of the charter changes -- the one dealing with suspected police lying -- would constitute a wholly new power. It notes, “The Board already has the authority to subpoena evidence,” and allowing it to delegate that power to the executive director simply makes the process “more efficient.”</p> <p>The PBA statement in the voter guide, which is published by the nonpartisan Campaign Finance Board, also says Question 2 would “drastically” increase the CCRB’s budget. If approved, Question 2 would guarantee the budget large enough to support a CCRB staff size equal to .65 percent of the police department’s headcount of uniformed officers. The fact sheet points out that the current budget ratio this year was only slightly lower, at .59 percent, than what would be guaranteed under the proposed amendment.</p> <p>“Under this new requirement, we would continue to work closely with the Office of Management and Budget to determine the amount of funding necessary to maintain this level of staffing,” wrote CCRB Executive Director Jonathan Darche in an email to Gotham Gazette.</p> <p>In its voter guide statement, the PBA asserts the ballot measure would “reduce the authority of the Police Commissioner.”</p> <p>The CCRB fact sheet refutes that, stating: “The Police Commissioner would maintain the same level of authority over discipline, but the NYPD’s Internal Affairs Bureau would no longer be solely responsible for investigating false official statements made by officers during a CCRB investigation.”</p> <p>The fact sheet does not mention the proposed change that would require by law the police commissioner to explain in writing any decision to impose a lesser form of discipline than the one recommended by the CCRB. That requirement already exists under a <a href="https://www1.nyc.gov/assets/ccrb/downloads/pdf/about_pdf/apu_mou.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">2012 memorandum of understanding</a> between the NYPD and CCRB, and would be codified in the city charter if Question 2 is passed by voters.</p> <p>The CCRB also points to posts from the PBA’s Twitter account that accuse the CCRB of harboring “<a href="https://twitter.com/NYCPBA/status/1186312986497040384" target="_blank" rel="noopener">rampant anti-police bias</a>” and calling it “<a href="https://twitter.com/NYCPBA/status/1186643720244023296" target="_blank" rel="noopener">an outrageously dysfunctional agency</a>.” In response the CCRB cites its mandate to conduct “fact-based investigations of police misconduct” and points out that, according to its rules, one of each three-member panel, which make decisions on CCRB cases, must be a Board member designated by the Police Commissioner. On the matter of alleged agency dysfunction, the fact sheet points to upward trends over the last five years in number of cases closed and mediated.</p> <p>In <a href="https://twitter.com/NYCPBA/status/1187011716271562752" target="_blank" rel="noopener">another tweet</a>, the PBA stated: “By encouraging their clients to file false &amp; frivolous CCRB complaints, [“criminal advocates”] can sidetrack court cases and get guilty gang members, drug dealers &amp; thieves out of jail.” In response to this, the CCRB cites data on the number of unsubstantiated misconduct allegations it has processed.</p> <p>“Of the allegations closed in 2018, 463, or 8% of total allegations, were unfounded,” the fact sheet states. It adds: “In the past decade, only 52 complainants have ever been found by the Agency to have made repeated unfounded complaints against officers.”</p> <p>One of the PBA claims appears to refer directly to the 2019 Charter Revision Commission, the body that devised the proposed amendments, rather than to the CCRB. In a <a href="https://twitter.com/NYCPBA/status/1186274748835205120" target="_blank" rel="noopener">tweet kicking-off its vote “no” campaign</a> last Monday, the PBA wrote, “Political extremists and cop-haters have been attacking NYC police officers in the streets for years. Now, they're doing it at the ballot box.”</p> <p>In its fact sheet, the CCRB responds: “The Charter Commission, which ultimately decided what would and wouldn’t be on the ballot this year, was comprised of 15 members of varying backgrounds and degrees of support for police oversight. The Charter Commission Members were appointed by elected officials including the Mayor, Borough Presidents, and City Council Speaker.” City Comptroller Scott Stringer and then-Public Advocate Letitia James also appointed members.</p> <p>

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by Ethan Geringer-Sameth, reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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<p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2019/mayor-pd-comm.jpg" alt="mayor pd comm" width="600" /></p> <p>(photo: Benjamin Kanter/Mayoral Photo Office)</p> <hr /> <p>The Civilian Complaint Review Board has responded to the Police Benevolent Association’s efforts to kill a ballot referendum that would enhance the agency’s powers. The CCRB began promoting a <a href="https://www1.nyc.gov/site/ccrb/about/outreach/charter2019.page" target="_blank" rel="noopener">fact sheet</a> on its website and social media Friday aimed at “correcting misinformation” days after the launch of the PBA’s campaign, calling the union’s communications “myth” as it seeks a “no” vote on ballot question two.</p> <p>Last week, the PBA began <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8867-police-officers-union-launches-campaign-to-defeat-nypd-oversight-ballot-measure" target="_blank">urging its members</a> and allies to vote “no” on the ballot proposal before voters this fall and has a statement of opposition to the measure in the city’s official voter guide, Gotham Gazette first reported. The set of proposals -- question two of five -- would amend the city charter to expand the CCRB’s operational capacity and jurisdiction, while also tweaking how appointments to the board are made and requiring more transparency and communication from the police commissioner.</p> <p>All five ballot questions contain proposed changes to the charter developed by a multilateral commission tasked with examining the city’s central governing document. Voters can approve or disapprove of each during the October 26-November 3 early voting period or on Election Day, November 5.</p> <p><a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8848-significant-nypd-oversight-reforms-fall-ballot-ccrb" target="_blank">Question 2</a> on the ballot includes four changes that CCRB officials say would improve the administration of its mandate and a fifth that would expand its jurisdiction to allow it to look into allegations of officers suspected of lying while under investigation for misconduct.</p> <p>The administrative changes would allow the Board to delegate subpoena power to the executive director and guarantee its budget based on a formula tied to the NYPD’s officer headcount. The proposals would also increase the size and appointments to the Board and require the police commissioner to explain to the CCRB when deviating from the agency’s disciplinary recommendations.</p> <p>Police reform advocates and the CCRB chair, Fred Davie, believe the changes to the city charter amount to a small shift in the powers and performance of the agency but will add layers of accountability to the police department. The CCRB is a civilian agency separate from the NYPD and tasked with investigating civilian-reported complaints of police officer misconduct in a limited set of circumstances: when excessive force or offensive language may have been used, or when police officers are said to have abused their authority or acted discourteously.</p> <p>In opposing the proposed reforms in Question 2, the PBA, the city’s largest law enforcement union, posted to its website and social media claims that the measure constituted a large-scale “power grab” by a police oversight agency with a history of “anti-police bias.”</p> <p>Debate over the ballot measure comes just months after the CCRB prosecuted Officer Daniel Pantaleo for misconduct in the arrest that led to Eric Garner’s death on Staten Island in 2014. That departmental trial led to Pantaleo’s dismissal by NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill despite the PBA’s assertion that Pantaleo did nothing wrong.</p> <p>The CCRB fact sheet attempts to illuminate seven of what the page refers to as “myths” promulgated by the PBA as part of its campaign against the ballot measure.</p> <p>Citing a statement of opposition submitted by the PBA and <a href="http://www.nyccfb.info/nyc-votes/vgwelcome/general-election-2019/ballot-proposals/ballot-question-2-civilian-complaint-review-board/?languageType=English" target="_blank" rel="noopener">published in the city’s voter guide</a>, the CCRB takes issue with the police union’s description of Question 2 as giving the CCRB “sweeping new powers.” The fact sheet emphasizes that only one of the charter changes -- the one dealing with suspected police lying -- would constitute a wholly new power. It notes, “The Board already has the authority to subpoena evidence,” and allowing it to delegate that power to the executive director simply makes the process “more efficient.”</p> <p>The PBA statement in the voter guide, which is published by the nonpartisan Campaign Finance Board, also says Question 2 would “drastically” increase the CCRB’s budget. If approved, Question 2 would guarantee the budget large enough to support a CCRB staff size equal to .65 percent of the police department’s headcount of uniformed officers. The fact sheet points out that the current budget ratio this year was only slightly lower, at .59 percent, than what would be guaranteed under the proposed amendment.</p> <p>“Under this new requirement, we would continue to work closely with the Office of Management and Budget to determine the amount of funding necessary to maintain this level of staffing,” wrote CCRB Executive Director Jonathan Darche in an email to Gotham Gazette.</p> <p>In its voter guide statement, the PBA asserts the ballot measure would “reduce the authority of the Police Commissioner.”</p> <p>The CCRB fact sheet refutes that, stating: “The Police Commissioner would maintain the same level of authority over discipline, but the NYPD’s Internal Affairs Bureau would no longer be solely responsible for investigating false official statements made by officers during a CCRB investigation.”</p> <p>The fact sheet does not mention the proposed change that would require by law the police commissioner to explain in writing any decision to impose a lesser form of discipline than the one recommended by the CCRB. That requirement already exists under a <a href="https://www1.nyc.gov/assets/ccrb/downloads/pdf/about_pdf/apu_mou.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">2012 memorandum of understanding</a> between the NYPD and CCRB, and would be codified in the city charter if Question 2 is passed by voters.</p> <p>The CCRB also points to posts from the PBA’s Twitter account that accuse the CCRB of harboring “<a href="https://twitter.com/NYCPBA/status/1186312986497040384" target="_blank" rel="noopener">rampant anti-police bias</a>” and calling it “<a href="https://twitter.com/NYCPBA/status/1186643720244023296" target="_blank" rel="noopener">an outrageously dysfunctional agency</a>.” In response the CCRB cites its mandate to conduct “fact-based investigations of police misconduct” and points out that, according to its rules, one of each three-member panel, which make decisions on CCRB cases, must be a Board member designated by the Police Commissioner. On the matter of alleged agency dysfunction, the fact sheet points to upward trends over the last five years in number of cases closed and mediated.</p> <p>In <a href="https://twitter.com/NYCPBA/status/1187011716271562752" target="_blank" rel="noopener">another tweet</a>, the PBA stated: “By encouraging their clients to file false &amp; frivolous CCRB complaints, [“criminal advocates”] can sidetrack court cases and get guilty gang members, drug dealers &amp; thieves out of jail.” In response to this, the CCRB cites data on the number of unsubstantiated misconduct allegations it has processed.</p> <p>“Of the allegations closed in 2018, 463, or 8% of total allegations, were unfounded,” the fact sheet states. It adds: “In the past decade, only 52 complainants have ever been found by the Agency to have made repeated unfounded complaints against officers.”</p> <p>One of the PBA claims appears to refer directly to the 2019 Charter Revision Commission, the body that devised the proposed amendments, rather than to the CCRB. In a <a href="https://twitter.com/NYCPBA/status/1186274748835205120" target="_blank" rel="noopener">tweet kicking-off its vote “no” campaign</a> last Monday, the PBA wrote, “Political extremists and cop-haters have been attacking NYC police officers in the streets for years. Now, they're doing it at the ballot box.”</p> <p>In its fact sheet, the CCRB responds: “The Charter Commission, which ultimately decided what would and wouldn’t be on the ballot this year, was comprised of 15 members of varying backgrounds and degrees of support for police oversight. The Charter Commission Members were appointed by elected officials including the Mayor, Borough Presidents, and City Council Speaker.” City Comptroller Scott Stringer and then-Public Advocate Letitia James also appointed members.</p> <p>

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by Ethan Geringer-Sameth, reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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</p>
Police Officers Union Launches Campaign to Defeat NYPD Oversight Ballot Measure 2019-10-21T04:00:00+00:00 2019-10-21T04:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8867-police-officers-union-launches-campaign-to-defeat-nypd-oversight-ballot-measure Ben Max <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2019/mayors-office-promotion.jpg" alt="mayors office promotion" width="600" /></p> <p>PBA President Pat Lynch, second from left (photo: Ed Reed/Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>The Policemen’s Benevolent Association, the city’s largest law enforcement union, launched on Monday a campaign against ballot proposals aimed at strengthening police oversight.&nbsp;</p> <p>The PBA is urging its members and their allies to vote “no” on Question 2 on the ballot this fall in hopes of scuttling potential changes to the way the Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB) investigates and prosecutes officers accused of misconduct. A New York City charter revision commission has placed five questions with 19 proposals on the ballot this year, with voting across the city set to begin October 26 with early voting and conclude on Election Day, November 5.</p> <p>In a statement posted to the PBA’s Twitter account at 9:35 a.m. on Monday, the union wrote, “Political extremists and cop-haters have been attacking NYC police officers in the streets for years. Now, they're doing it at the ballot box. Don't let the criminal advocates expand&nbsp;@CCRB_NYC's power. VOTE NO ON BALLOT QUESTION #2 #VoteNoOn2”.&nbsp;</p> <p>Accompanying the message is an image of an apparent protestor with most of their face hidden by a bandana and a Guy Fawkes mask, holding a Blue Lives Matter flag upside-down with the words, “F*** THE POLICE,” written across it (the union appears to have censored the expletive). Scrolling around the figure and the flag reads the text: “Do you know what’s on your ballot? Because they know…”</p> <p>The same image and message is on the PBA website homepage. When clicked the ad directs readers to a page where they must enter their member log-in credentials to access what is posted.</p> <p><a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8848-significant-nypd-oversight-reforms-fall-ballot-ccrb" target="_blank">Question 2</a> on the ballot contains five changes to the CCRB’s jurisdiction and operations. They include expanding the number of appointments to the board and who makes them; giving the executive director subpoena power; guaranteeing the CCRB’s budget; and requiring the police commissioner to provide an explanation when deviating from the board’s disciplinary recommendations.&nbsp;</p> <p>And the fifth and perhaps most controversial of the proposed CCRB amendments is an expansion of the Board’s jurisdiction to allow it to investigate officers suspected of lying to CCRB investigators. Currently, the agency must refer those cases to the NYPD even if it has proof an officer has lied while under investigation. The amendment is limited to apply only to officers already under CCRB investigation for other types of misconduct under its jurisdiction.</p> <p>The PBA has also submitted a statement of opposition to the city’s Campaign Finance Board to be included in its Voter Guide, which illuminates the union’s position on the proposed amendment. “Ballot Question #2 would give CCRB sweeping new powers and drastically increase its budget,” the statement reads. “It should not be adopted. CCRB is a dysfunctional, ineffective agency, and increasing its authority would harm police officers and have serious ramifications for public safety.”&nbsp;</p> <p>The statement claims strengthening the CCRB would “embolden anti-police extremists, and reduce the authority of the Police Commissioner.”&nbsp;</p> <p>The CCRB is an all-civilian agency separate from the police department, though its Board often includes former NYPD officers. It is charged with substantiating certain misconduct complaints, prosecuting officers in departmental trial settings, and recommending discipline to the police commissioner. The Board is appointed by the mayor with eight of its 13 members nominated by the City Council and police commissioner. Under the city charter, the CCRB’s jurisdiction is limited to four types of civilian complaints: excessive use of force, abuse of authority, discourtesy, and offensive language, and it can only investigate when a complaint is filed.</p> <p>Police reform advocates and CCRB Chair Fred Davie believe the proposed changes would help the board carry out its mandate as outlined in the charter.&nbsp;</p> <p>“Let me just say, generally, I cannot advocate for anyone to go out and vote in favor of these proposals. But I think I’m free to talk about how I view their impact on the agency,” said Davie in an interview with Gotham Gazette earlier this month.</p> <p>“And I think, on the whole, they are good for the agency and will help to advance civilian oversight of certain disciplinary aspects of the NYPD, those that fall within our jurisdiction,” he added.&nbsp;</p> <p>Referring to the proposal to bring suspected officer lying under the CCRB’s authority, Davie said, “Obviously, I think we should be able to investigate those. I think that...it adds integrity to the process. It adds another level of accountability.”</p> <p>A representative from Communities United for Police Reform (CPR) Action Fund, the political arm of a coalition of police reform and civil rights activists, said the group is urging voters to vote “yes” on Question 2. In an email sent to Gotham Gazette Monday, Monifa Bandele of MomsRising Together and the CPR Action Fund said, “Condoning false statements by police is dangerous for everyone, which is why CPR Action Fund is calling on all New Yorkers to vote Yes on 2 - to help ensure that the CCRB can investigate these incidents.”</p> <p>“New Yorkers are increasingly rejecting racist and baseless fear-mongering by the police unions who protested the firing of the officer who killed Eric Garner,” the statement continued. “The latest bad-faith attempts by the PBA to advocate for police to be above the law and undermine the democratic process with lies is despicable."&nbsp;</p> <p>The Sergeants Benevolent Association and the Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association do not appear to be waging parallel campaigns to the PBA’s. Representatives from the PBA, SBA, and COBA did not respond to requests for comments.&nbsp;According to the PBA website, the union represents approximately 24,000 current members of the NYPD.</p> <p>In a second tweet posted at 12:07 p.m. Monday, the PBA quoted an <a href="https://nypost.com/2016/03/28/cops-put-on-trial-for-misconduct-without-any-complaints-filed/?fbclid=IwAR2dHE-Ij_n1X1O6pMVC5mSkumf0YdS409DCaq8mYJFc-kIgGjVHqRAI_5Q" target="_blank" rel="noopener">article published in the New York Post in 2016</a> about a 2014 CCRB investigation carried out without a complaint on file. “‘The CCRB is so anti-cop that it is now accusing highly decorated officers of misconduct--even when no complaints are filed against them,” the tweet reads.</p> <p>“This is a power grab by an agency with rampant anti-police bias. On Nov 5th VOTE NO ON BALLOT QUESTION #2,” the post continues, along with, “#VoteNoOn2,” a hashtag that currently appears more popular in states with stronger referendum traditions than in New York.&nbsp;</p> <p>Like the other four ballot questions, Question 2 had not received any organized public opposition before the PBA’s campaign launched Monday. In fact, the only organized advocacy around the proposals at all has been by a coalition of voting reformers who are pushing voters to approve Question 1, which would institute a ranked-choice voting system in some New York City elections.</p> <p>The other three ballot questions deal with issues in the categories of ethics and governance, city budget, and land use.</p> <p>As of Monday, the PBA has not reported any independent expenditures with the Campaign Finance Board, according to Matthew Sollars, the agency’s director of public relations. Independent campaign spending must be publicly disclosed if it exceeds $1,000 to promote or oppose a ballot proposal or candidate, but the filing deadline for expenditures made up to and including Monday is not until the end of the week.</p> <p>With few consequential races on the ballot, this election is expected to have especially low turnout. Only the citywide public advocate, the Queens district attorney, and a handful of judicial seats are up for election. Ballot referenda in New York tend to have even lower response rates than other contests on Election Day.</p> <p>This year, voters will have the opportunity to cast ballots at early voting sites from October 26 to November 3, or on Election Day, Tuesday, November 5.</p> <p>[Read: <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8848-significant-nypd-oversight-reforms-fall-ballot-ccrb" target="_blank" rel="noopener">There are NYPD Oversight Measures on the Ballot - How Significant are They?</a>]</p> <p>

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by Ethan Geringer-Sameth, reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2019/mayors-office-promotion.jpg" alt="mayors office promotion" width="600" /></p> <p>PBA President Pat Lynch, second from left (photo: Ed Reed/Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>The Policemen’s Benevolent Association, the city’s largest law enforcement union, launched on Monday a campaign against ballot proposals aimed at strengthening police oversight.&nbsp;</p> <p>The PBA is urging its members and their allies to vote “no” on Question 2 on the ballot this fall in hopes of scuttling potential changes to the way the Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB) investigates and prosecutes officers accused of misconduct. A New York City charter revision commission has placed five questions with 19 proposals on the ballot this year, with voting across the city set to begin October 26 with early voting and conclude on Election Day, November 5.</p> <p>In a statement posted to the PBA’s Twitter account at 9:35 a.m. on Monday, the union wrote, “Political extremists and cop-haters have been attacking NYC police officers in the streets for years. Now, they're doing it at the ballot box. Don't let the criminal advocates expand&nbsp;@CCRB_NYC's power. VOTE NO ON BALLOT QUESTION #2 #VoteNoOn2”.&nbsp;</p> <p>Accompanying the message is an image of an apparent protestor with most of their face hidden by a bandana and a Guy Fawkes mask, holding a Blue Lives Matter flag upside-down with the words, “F*** THE POLICE,” written across it (the union appears to have censored the expletive). Scrolling around the figure and the flag reads the text: “Do you know what’s on your ballot? Because they know…”</p> <p>The same image and message is on the PBA website homepage. When clicked the ad directs readers to a page where they must enter their member log-in credentials to access what is posted.</p> <p><a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8848-significant-nypd-oversight-reforms-fall-ballot-ccrb" target="_blank">Question 2</a> on the ballot contains five changes to the CCRB’s jurisdiction and operations. They include expanding the number of appointments to the board and who makes them; giving the executive director subpoena power; guaranteeing the CCRB’s budget; and requiring the police commissioner to provide an explanation when deviating from the board’s disciplinary recommendations.&nbsp;</p> <p>And the fifth and perhaps most controversial of the proposed CCRB amendments is an expansion of the Board’s jurisdiction to allow it to investigate officers suspected of lying to CCRB investigators. Currently, the agency must refer those cases to the NYPD even if it has proof an officer has lied while under investigation. The amendment is limited to apply only to officers already under CCRB investigation for other types of misconduct under its jurisdiction.</p> <p>The PBA has also submitted a statement of opposition to the city’s Campaign Finance Board to be included in its Voter Guide, which illuminates the union’s position on the proposed amendment. “Ballot Question #2 would give CCRB sweeping new powers and drastically increase its budget,” the statement reads. “It should not be adopted. CCRB is a dysfunctional, ineffective agency, and increasing its authority would harm police officers and have serious ramifications for public safety.”&nbsp;</p> <p>The statement claims strengthening the CCRB would “embolden anti-police extremists, and reduce the authority of the Police Commissioner.”&nbsp;</p> <p>The CCRB is an all-civilian agency separate from the police department, though its Board often includes former NYPD officers. It is charged with substantiating certain misconduct complaints, prosecuting officers in departmental trial settings, and recommending discipline to the police commissioner. The Board is appointed by the mayor with eight of its 13 members nominated by the City Council and police commissioner. Under the city charter, the CCRB’s jurisdiction is limited to four types of civilian complaints: excessive use of force, abuse of authority, discourtesy, and offensive language, and it can only investigate when a complaint is filed.</p> <p>Police reform advocates and CCRB Chair Fred Davie believe the proposed changes would help the board carry out its mandate as outlined in the charter.&nbsp;</p> <p>“Let me just say, generally, I cannot advocate for anyone to go out and vote in favor of these proposals. But I think I’m free to talk about how I view their impact on the agency,” said Davie in an interview with Gotham Gazette earlier this month.</p> <p>“And I think, on the whole, they are good for the agency and will help to advance civilian oversight of certain disciplinary aspects of the NYPD, those that fall within our jurisdiction,” he added.&nbsp;</p> <p>Referring to the proposal to bring suspected officer lying under the CCRB’s authority, Davie said, “Obviously, I think we should be able to investigate those. I think that...it adds integrity to the process. It adds another level of accountability.”</p> <p>A representative from Communities United for Police Reform (CPR) Action Fund, the political arm of a coalition of police reform and civil rights activists, said the group is urging voters to vote “yes” on Question 2. In an email sent to Gotham Gazette Monday, Monifa Bandele of MomsRising Together and the CPR Action Fund said, “Condoning false statements by police is dangerous for everyone, which is why CPR Action Fund is calling on all New Yorkers to vote Yes on 2 - to help ensure that the CCRB can investigate these incidents.”</p> <p>“New Yorkers are increasingly rejecting racist and baseless fear-mongering by the police unions who protested the firing of the officer who killed Eric Garner,” the statement continued. “The latest bad-faith attempts by the PBA to advocate for police to be above the law and undermine the democratic process with lies is despicable."&nbsp;</p> <p>The Sergeants Benevolent Association and the Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association do not appear to be waging parallel campaigns to the PBA’s. Representatives from the PBA, SBA, and COBA did not respond to requests for comments.&nbsp;According to the PBA website, the union represents approximately 24,000 current members of the NYPD.</p> <p>In a second tweet posted at 12:07 p.m. Monday, the PBA quoted an <a href="https://nypost.com/2016/03/28/cops-put-on-trial-for-misconduct-without-any-complaints-filed/?fbclid=IwAR2dHE-Ij_n1X1O6pMVC5mSkumf0YdS409DCaq8mYJFc-kIgGjVHqRAI_5Q" target="_blank" rel="noopener">article published in the New York Post in 2016</a> about a 2014 CCRB investigation carried out without a complaint on file. “‘The CCRB is so anti-cop that it is now accusing highly decorated officers of misconduct--even when no complaints are filed against them,” the tweet reads.</p> <p>“This is a power grab by an agency with rampant anti-police bias. On Nov 5th VOTE NO ON BALLOT QUESTION #2,” the post continues, along with, “#VoteNoOn2,” a hashtag that currently appears more popular in states with stronger referendum traditions than in New York.&nbsp;</p> <p>Like the other four ballot questions, Question 2 had not received any organized public opposition before the PBA’s campaign launched Monday. In fact, the only organized advocacy around the proposals at all has been by a coalition of voting reformers who are pushing voters to approve Question 1, which would institute a ranked-choice voting system in some New York City elections.</p> <p>The other three ballot questions deal with issues in the categories of ethics and governance, city budget, and land use.</p> <p>As of Monday, the PBA has not reported any independent expenditures with the Campaign Finance Board, according to Matthew Sollars, the agency’s director of public relations. Independent campaign spending must be publicly disclosed if it exceeds $1,000 to promote or oppose a ballot proposal or candidate, but the filing deadline for expenditures made up to and including Monday is not until the end of the week.</p> <p>With few consequential races on the ballot, this election is expected to have especially low turnout. Only the citywide public advocate, the Queens district attorney, and a handful of judicial seats are up for election. Ballot referenda in New York tend to have even lower response rates than other contests on Election Day.</p> <p>This year, voters will have the opportunity to cast ballots at early voting sites from October 26 to November 3, or on Election Day, Tuesday, November 5.</p> <p>[Read: <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8848-significant-nypd-oversight-reforms-fall-ballot-ccrb" target="_blank" rel="noopener">There are NYPD Oversight Measures on the Ballot - How Significant are They?</a>]</p> <p>

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by Ethan Geringer-Sameth, reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>