A new semi-annual report by the New York City Civilian Complaint Review Board demonstrates the power of camera phones.
In the new report, the CCRB outlines several key takeaways: Complaints against New York City police officers are at the lowest level since 2001, there’s an increase in the number of substantiated complaints because of the availability of video evidence, improved productivity in the CCRB has shortened the timeline for completing investigations and better cooperation between the NYPD and the CCRB has resulted in the latter’s disciplinary recommendations being adopted.
“This report documents the confluence of two significant statistics—the continuing decrease in civilian complaints against NYPD officers and the remarkable fact that very few officers are responsible for almost all CCRB complaints,” said CCRB Chair Richard Emery in a statement. “What this means for New Yorkers is that police misconduct is not intractable and is on the wane. A shift in the NYPD culture towards civilians and the use of body-worn cameras will improve police-community relations, resulting in bigger drops in complaints to come.”
In the first half of 2015, complaints filed with the CCRB decreased by 22 percent (2,092) when compared with the first half of 2015 (2,698). It’s also the lowest number filed for any six-month period since 2001. Also, the CCRB report stated that all categories of misconduct that occurred during the alleged incidents decreased, including force, abuse of authority, discourtesy and offensive language.
But on the other side of the coin, allegations of false officials’ statements, improper searches despite the decrease in stop-and-frisk encounters and the percentage of substantiated complaints of unnecessary or excessive force all increased. Statistics show that 3,721 officers (10 percent of the force) were responsible for more than 78 percent of all CCRB complaints.
The first half of 2015 saw the percentage of force investigations with video evidence increase by 21 percent, which is up from only 4 percent in 2012. Substantiated cases in which video evidence was essential to the investigation increased from 15 percent in 2012 to 45 percent in 2015. The percentages in 2013 and 2014 were 26 percent and 34 percent, respectively. The Investigations Division cited the ability to go to incident locations after a complaint filing and immediately canvas for surveillance video and witnesses.
Mina Malik, CCRB’s executive director, stated the reasons for the agency’s increased success rate.
“The CCRB is providing better service than ever before,” said Malik. “By conducting quality investigations that are timely and thorough, we fulfill one of the goals of civilian oversight, with justice for civilians and officers alike. The certainty that justice will be done supports the process of healing police-community relations.”
CCRB’s increased success was demonstrated by the substantiation of 237 complaints in 1,117 full investigations (21 percent) in the first half of 2015, compared with the 15 percent substantiation rate in the first half of 2014. New cases were also fully investigated in a shorter time span, an average of 77 days—a 72 percent reduction compared with last year, when an average investigation took 271 days.