City police unions and their allies have engaged in a concerted effort to defeat a ballot question that if approved by voters Nov. 5 would give the city’s civilian police oversight panel more authority and an increased budget.
During a Halloween Day rally hosted by City Council Member Joe Borelli and attended by members of police unions, he derided the CCRB as a “kangaroo court” that adds to an officer’s already-significant job pressures.
The Staten Island Councilman, the Republican candidate for Public Advocate in Tuesday’s election, cautioned on the steps of Staten Island’s Borough Hall that expanding the board would turn “a quaint department into an organization that is actively out there trying to prosecute the police officers that make our city better.”
The Civilian Complaint Review Board, an independent city agency, investigates and prosecutes complaints by the public against NYPD officers. It is the nation’s largest such entity.
Should voters approve the ballot measure—early voting began Oct. 26—the CCRB’s personnel budget would “fund a CCRB employee headcount equal to 0.65% of the Police Department’s uniformed officer headcount, meaning that it would fund about two-thirds of one CCRB staffer for every 100 uniformed officers.
According to estimates, that would be equivalent to about $19 million. The board’s current fiscal-year allocation is roughly $17.1 million, a ratio of 0.59 percent.
The measure would also increase the board’s size from 13 to 15 members and also require that the Police Commissioner provide it with an explanation when he or she intends to institute discipline different from that recommended by the CCRB or by the NYPD’s Deputy Commissioner for Trials.
Could Probe Lying
It also would permit the board to investigate suspected false statements made by an officer during the course of an investigation or during prosecution. Those allegations are currently referred to the NYPD for investigation and possible prosecution.
Lastly, it would allow board members, subject to a vote, to delegate subpoena power to the CCRB Executive Director.
According to some advocates, one benefit of the budget provision would be additional independence for the CCRB, as well as increased transparency with regard to the police budget.
Mr. Borelli, though, suggested that the board’s elimination would be the ideal scenario.
“The CCRB is not about police accountability, it is about police punishment,” he said. “Police officers are already responsible to five District Attorneys, two U.S. Attorneys, Inspector General, [the NYPD] Internal Affairs [Bureau], the City Council, the Mayor, their own supervisors.”
Patrick J. Lynch, the president of the Police Benevolent Association, was even more forceful in his characterization of the board, which he said was overseen by anti-police zealots.
‘Tool to Punish Cops’
“CCRB is not a fair process,” he said in Staten Island Thursday, without citing specifics. “It’s not a process where you can get justice. It’s used as a tool to punish police officers by the criminal element. CCRB is staffed by incompetent people that are criminal advocates who are there to punish police officers unreasonably for doing their job.”
In a bid to counter what it characterizes on its website as “misinformation,” the CCRB says the claim that it is governed by an anti-police bias is a fiction.
A “Myth vs. Fact” sheet on the CCRB’s homepage said the measure would give the board “just one new power,” that being the ability to investigate suspected false statements.
It also cited the recently released Mayor’s Management Report in documenting that it received 5,236 complaints this fiscal year, about 20 percent more than last fiscal year, but that a five-year trend indicates that more cases are being closed with findings on the merits.
It also pointed out that the rate at which it recommended discipline where none was imposed by the Police Commissioner has decreased, and that the rate at which both the board and the Commissioner agreed on sanctions has increased.
“Regardless of how they vote in this election, it’s important that New Yorkers’ decisions are rooted in fact. Our city has the largest police department in the country, and it’s critical that police accountability is at the forefront of the conversation about law enforcement,” the board’s Chairman, Fred Davie, said in a statement.
But in a message to his members entitled “Stop the lunacy,” the Sergeants Benevolent Association’s president, Ed Mullins, said the ballot question is “another disgraceful attempt to undermine and enfeeble the NYPD.”
“CCRB has a proven track record of incompetence, malfeasance, bias, dysfunction, and loathing for the police,” he wrote, without citing specific instances.
He urged members to get colleagues, friends and family members to vote against the proposal.
“Should this revision be implemented, things will only become more dangerous,” Mr. Mullins wrote.
NYPD: Unfunded Burden
The NYPD is also on the record as being against approval of the measure.
Addressing the charter revision panel in March, the NYPD’s Executive Director of Legislative Affairs, Oleg Chernyavsky, said the department was already “subject to multiple oversight entities,” including city, state and federal authorities as well as the public.
“Allowing an expansion of the CCRB’s legal jurisdiction to include prosecution and policy review would be duplicative of existing oversight frameworks and create a significant unfunded burden to the department,” he said.
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