Inspector general to NYPD: ‘Train officers better’

Stephon Johnson | 10/8/2015, 9:45 a.m.
In a report last week, NYPD Inspector General Philip Eure outlined ways police officers can avoid unnecessarily violent confrontations.
NYPD Photo by Bill Moore

In a report last week, NYPD Inspector General Philip Eure outlined ways police officers can avoid unnecessarily violent confrontations. But that’s not all it revealed.

The report, titled “Using Data from Lawsuits and Legal Claims Involving NYPD to Improve Policing,” looks at 179 cases substantiated by the Civilian Complaint Review Board between 2010 and 2014. Eure concluded that the Police Department doesn’t properly track incidents in which force was used and doesn’t discipline officer who use excessive force. Eure also stated what others have spoken out about for a while: Blacks and Hispanics were disproportionately the victims of excessive force.

Eure wants the NYPD Patrol Guide to be updated to better clarify what is meant by “force,” “excessive force” and “deadly physical force,” and collect data on disciplinary trends and publish those data, including the number and percentage of how often the commissioner reduces or declines discipline in force cases.

The inspector general also wants the NYPD and Police Commissioner Bill Bratton to train officers on how to de-escalate situations.

Bratton pushed back in an interview with National Public Radio. The commissioner said that Eure already knew that the department was changing its approach to use of force and said the inspector general’s latest report was a form of “grandstanding.”

“They evaluated something that was in progress because it allowed them to make statements like the one you described, saying that we’re not doing enough to do de-escalation,” Bratton told NPR.

Activist groups have jumped into the fray to comment on the report as well. In a statement, Communities United for Police Reform's Priscilla Gonzalez said that although the reported changes being made by the NYPD is a “positive step,” she feels they won’t have an impact without the department holding officers accountable in a timely fashion.

“NYPD reporting also needs to include reporting of disciplinary actions taken for use of force cases, not just those reported and substantiated by CCRB,” said Gonzalez. “The NYPD inspector general report is only further substantiation of the reality that the department fails to discipline officers who use force without justification, and that officers are too often the ones escalating encounters. Suspension with pay, simply moving an officer to a different part of the NYPD or docking vacation days are not acceptable discipline for violations of the fundamental oath to protect and serve.”

Gonzalez also stated that the inspector general report “raises questions” about Bratton’s testimony to the New York City Council claiming the scenarios involving NYPD’s use of force were at historic lows and a model of restraint.

“If the department had already acknowledged its reporting and collection of this information was inadequate both internally and in its communication with the federal government, it shows Bratton’s previous testimony to the City Council at an oversight hearing as disingenuous and factually inconsistent,” Gonzalez said.

Current Brooklyn Borough President and former police officer Eric Adams spoke on his experiences from the perspective of a teenager and an officer. He said he was roughed up by police but understands that they have a tough job. However, to him, that doesn’t excuse some of their actions.