Nearly two years after the murder of George Floyd led to a summer of demonstrations and often heavy-handed police reaction in streets across the United States, a civilian oversight agency has recommended that 145 officers in the nation’s largest city should be disciplined by their higher-ups after inappropriately policing during the 2020 Black Lives Matter protests.
A little over a quarter of the wrongful policing cases examined by the watchdog collective were found to be acts of misconduct.
According to the “2020 Protest Data Snapshot” released on Wednesday, May 11, the Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB), a New York City police oversight agency, received over “750 complaints relating to the behavior of NYPD officers” during that summer’s season of civil unrest.
Out of those complaints, 321 fell within the CCRB’s jurisdiction and consisted of over 2,000 allegations of police misconduct, naming 500 officers as perpetrators.
New York’s new mayor, Eric Adams, a retired NYPD captain and co-founder of the advocacy group “100 Blacks in Law Enforcement Who Care,” said on Thursday, May 12, he is taking a “deep dive into police discipline.”
“There are many areas that we’re going to have to revamp and reform,” he added as he addressed a question about the CCRB report during a public appearance in Harlem. “We want it to be efficient, but it should not take as long as it’s taking to get to a final result.”
The CCRB report, which substantiated 87 misconduct complaints against 145 officers, said it was difficult to conduct the oversight because the system is not set up to adequately police the police.
“The CCRB has seen unprecedented challenges in investigating these complaints, particularly around the identification of officers due to the failure to follow proper protocols, officers covering their names and shield, officers wearing protective equipment that did not belong to them, the lack of proper use of body-worn cameras, as well as incomplete and severely delayed paperwork,” the report revealed.
The board conducted 223 investigations, finding exonerations in 17 cases and noting that 49 cases were unsubstantiated and 11 were unfounded. Five cases remain open.
The report reveals “The current substantiation rate in fully investigated protest complaints is 39%” and that “the NYPD has finalized 44 cases and imposed discipline against 18 officers.”
Hawk Newsome, a co-founder of Black Lives Matter of Greater New York and organizer of a few of the NYC 2020 protests, said to Spectrum News NY1, “These officers, because they’re not being prosecuted, they feel like it’s OK and that’s the wrong message to send to the people. It leads to a distrust in policing in New York, it makes you question the mayor’s capability of holding police accountable.”
“It’s a total lack of accountability on the city of New York,” Newsome continued.
“Here you have people exercising their first amendment right, their constitutional right, and police are butchering and harming people.”
Erica Bond, a member of the CCRB appointed by former Mayor Bill de Blasio, said about the study, “I am troubled by the number of cases where we recommended fairly significant discipline, command discipline … as well as charges, where no discipline at all was imposed.”
The week the NYPD Deputy Commissioner of Public Information’s office said, “The NYPD has assisted the CCRB in their investigations by providing hundreds of hours of body-worn-camera footage.”
“Like any citizen, police officers should be afforded presumption of innocence until and unless proven guilty,” the statement reminded the public.
The CCRB was in the news recently for an unprecedented move toward reform and finding justice for those who have experienced harm at the hands of the NYPD.
NYPD Commissioner Keechant Sewell tapped the board to proceed with its case against Officer Wayne Isaacs, who fatally shot an unarmed man in Brooklyn in 2016, Delrawn Small.
NY1 confirmed her department will not get in the way of the CCRB as they seek to hold an administrative trial for Isaacs, who was actually found not guilty of second-degree murder and first-degree manslaughter by a Brooklyn jury in connection with the fatal shooting of the 37-year-old New Yorker in 2017.
The agency opened an investigation into the slaying and found a series of flaws they deemed worthy of revisiting. A spokesperson said, “Our investigation found that Officer Isaacs committed misconduct when he fatally shot Delrawn Small, and we are confident that our [Administrative Prosecution Unit] prosecutors will successfully prove this in court.”
The Police Benevolent Association President Pat Lynch objected to the commissioner’s decision, saying in a statement, “CCRB has nothing new to add to this case, which has already been fully investigated and adjudicated by the NYPD. The police officer was also acquitted by a Brooklyn jury.”
“CCRB is simply looking for a third bite at the apple in order to justify their bloated budget and advance their anti-cop agenda,” he added.
But the mayor is continuing to stand with the CCRB and the commissioner, the first Black woman to hold the job.
“We have a CCRB for a reason,” he said. “We thought that at this time, that case specifically, should have found a full resolution within the CCRB. The police commissioner made that determination. I support her.”
Adams continued, “And I commend her for using her authority to state if it should stay in CCRB or come into the police department. And she made that decision. I support that.”
The CCRB will release a full report this summer, sharing the panel’s key takeaways and how to move forward when assessing NYPD’s response to protests.