Between 2011 and 2015, nearly 319 New York Police Department officers who committed offenses serious enough to merit termination were allowed to keep their jobs, secret files obtained by BuzzFeed News have revealed.
From lying and cheating to sealing and assaulting local residents, the offenses run the gamut of fireable offenses. A least 50 employees were found to have lied on official reports or during an internal affairs investigation, while 38 were found guilty of excessive force by a police tribunal. In addition, 71 officers were guilty of ticket fixing and 57 others guilty of driving under the influence, according to the report.
About two dozen of these employees also worked in schools, including officer Andrew Bailey, who’s guilty of touching a female student on the thigh and smooching her on the cheek as she sat in his car. What’s more shocking is that in each of these incidents, the police commissioner, who has the final say in disciplinary decisions, placed the officers on “dismissal probation” rather than firing them.
The penalty comes with few consequences, according to BuzzFeed, as the officer continues his or her job at their usual salary. They may receive less overtime or not get promoted during that time, but that’s about it. The probation usually lasts a year and ends as soon as the year does.
BuzzFeed’s bombshell report is based on hundreds of internal police files the department kept hidden under a disputed state law that allows personnel and disciplinary records from being made public. California and Delaware have similar laws in place.
BuzzFeed was able to verify the documents, given they were provided by an anonymous source, via over 100 calls to NYPD employees, visits to officers’ homes, interviews with prosecutors and a review of thousands of pages of court documents. The Probation Files don’t list all the officers who received dismissal probation, however. Close to 50,000 people work for the department; at least 777 officers and an unknown number of other employees received the punishment in that five-year span.
Some sources alleged the penalty not only let guilty officers off the hook, but was used to arbitrarily punish other officers who reported misconduct.
“The Probation Files are by far the most thorough accounting of this practice to date,” the report states. “They pull back the curtain on one of the NYPD’s most fiercely guarded secrets, providing the most extensive record available of which officers, despite committing serious misconduct, continue to wield tremendous power over New Yorkers’ lives.”
Read BuzzFeed’s full report here.