Gotham Gazette

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Next Steps After Eye-Opening NYPD Inspector General Use-of-Force Report

Bratton NYPD IG

(photo via NYPD on flickr)

Officer James Frascatore is working behind a desk after assaulting James Blake last month. But if history is a guide, there's far too strong a likelihood that he won't be held accountable for his action.

That's the key finding of the report released yesterday on use-of-force by the NYPD Inspector General: From 2010 to 2014, the NYPD failed to impose discipline in 35.6 percent of cases with substantiated evidence of excessive force. If we are honest, we know that this problem pre-dates Commissioner Bratton and this Administration, but we must rightfully look toward the Commissioner and the Mayor to take corrective action.

The 62-page report digs deeply into NYPD use of force, with a strong set of recommendations for how to fix the problems identified.

We are pleased to see Commissioner Bratton quickly adopt a number of the policy recommendations in the report, including a far more rigorous tracking system for use-of-force incidents, clearer definitions of use of force, better training, and an annual use-of-force report.

These are necessary and important steps in the ongoing effort to improve police-community relations. They must help officers better understand essential procedures and eliminate instances of excessive force like those that resulted in Eric Garner's death and James Blake's assault.

The key remaining issue, though, is accountability when excessive force is used. The NYPD Inspector General's report identifies this as a clear area of concern, and calls for specific and appropriate reforms.

Commissioner Bratton has indicated that he is creating an internal unit to monitor officers with frequent complaints against them and he has voiced his commitment to work more closely with the CCRB on its disciplinary recommendations.

At the same time, however, there is still no explicit acknowledgement of the reality that the IG's report demonstrates clearly: in far too many cases, NYPD officers have faced no accountability for excessive use of force. The real proof of effective reforms will be seen when there are fewer officers inappropriately using force and when officers who use excessive force are held accountable for their actions.

That is why establishing by law an NYPD Early Intervention System for overly-aggressive police officers, as proposed by Council Members Williams and Garodnick, is so important. By establishing a system to quantify excessive force complaints, our city can better understand which officers may be prone to excessive force and who may need additional training, supervision, or other consequences.

We look forward to working with Commissioner Bratton to codify by law the early intervention work he is doing, to consider other legislation before the City Council, including the Right to Know Act, and to adopt the remaining recommendations in the Inspector General's report. While the issues at hand are decades old, span many police commissioners, and are not confined to New York City, there is real opportunity for us to lead the way, and to do so now.

This report - data-driven, thoughtful, and constructive - demonstrates the value of the Office of the NYPD Inspector General, just as we hoped when we passed the Community Safety Act in 2013. In a short time and to the contradiction of critics, the NYPD IG has already made real contributions toward improving public safety and advancing civil rights.

Jumaane D. Williams and Brad Lander are New York City Council Members from Brooklyn who co-sponsored Local Law 70 of 2013, which established the Office of the NYPD Inspector General.

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