Civilian Complaint Review Board Gets “Teeth” in Cop Misconduct Cases

The independent agency known as the Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB) now has expanded powers thanks to an agreement reached on Tuesday. Now the board’s attorneys can prosecute cops accused of misconduct, a move that could increase accountability in the department.

From 2002 to 2010, the CCRB recommended officers be given the most serious penalties in 2,078 cases. That recommendation was only followed by the department in 151 cases. The CCRB is hoping this will change with the new procedures.

Up until now, the board could only make recommendations to the department, and the decision to prosecute a police officer rested with the police agency itself. The process has long been called secretive and ineffective, but some are hoping this new change will bring about more transparency.

Christine Quinn, speaker of the City Council, said that until now, “C.C.R.B. felt like a toothless tiger,” where people would make complaints and then never know the outcome of the case they began.

Now, the C.C.R.B. will act as prosecutor in the misconduct cases that are deemed serious enough to go to trial. A police agency employee will still serve as judge, however, in these cases.

Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly will still retain the power to accept or reject the judge’s recommendation. But now, he will be required to inform the board in writing when he decides to deviate from the judge’s recommendation. The board then has the opportunity to appeal his ruling.

“And all of this can be reported publicly,” said Ms. Quinn, according to the N.Y. Times. In a process that was formerly kept out of the public’s eyes, this is a move towards true transparency and one that could encourage better relations between the department and the people they serve.

Of course, the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association is not confident in the ability of the CCRB to handle the investigations and subsequent prosecutions. Patrick Lynch, the president of the union, complained that the board has inexperienced investigators and a predisposition that the “police officers are always wrong.” He referred to upcoming potential trials, with CCRB prosecutors, as “kangaroo trials.”

When the police have such wide power in a city, and especially when a department is plagued with controversy as much as the NYPD, accountability is crucial. If the CCRB doesn’t have any actual power, but can only make recommendations, it is seen as little more than a symbolic board and serves no real purpose in holding cops accountable. By giving them the power to actually do something, the department can hope to regain trust of those people who may be wronged.

The NYPD is no stranger to complaints. Many people who are ultimately charged with a crime have allegations of mistreatment. It’s important to note that the police are legally required to act within certain procedures and protocol when initiating an arrest, conducting a search, and even executing a warrant. If they violate these procedures, it could jeopardize the state’s case against the suspect.

If you are facing criminal charges and have questions about how you were treated by police, contact our offices today.


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