City Council Seeks Change to Police Disciplinary Process - Katie Anastas



KAREN MANIRAHO, HOST: Last spring, Governor Cuomo issued an executive order requiring every city in the state to develop new policies addressing police misconduct. He said it was a response to the Black Lives Matter protests happening at the time. He set a deadline of April 1st of this year.


ANDREW CUOMO: We're not going to fund police agencies in this state that do not look at what has been happening, come to terms with it, and reform themselves.


CAT SMITH, HOST: Mayor De Blasio’s office, the NYPD, and the City Council are each responding with their own proposals. Katie Anastas reports.


KATIE ANASTAS, BYLINE: In January, the NYPD and the De Blasio administration adopted a new set of guidelines called the “disciplinary matrix.” The guidelines recommend penalties for officer misconduct that range from a loss in vacation days to termination.


Last week, at a City Council meeting, Councilmember Adrienne Adams said the NYPD’s penalties aren’t strong enough.

ADRIENNE ADAMS: The current practice of simply docking vacation days when an officer’s actions or inaction causes harm is a slap in the face to the victims, their families, and to their communities.


ANASTAS: Last week, in response to the new NYPD guidelines, and to Cuomo’s executive order, the City Council introduced twelve bills, covering a wide range of police operations. One bill would shift oversight of cases involving excessive use of force and offensive language, from the Police Commissioner to the Civilian Complaint Review Board. Another is intended to protect suspects from unreasonable search and seizure. NYPD attorney Oleg Chernyavsky responded in last week’s Council hearing.


OLEG CHERNYAVSKY: What you are doing in this bill, based on the way this bill is drafted, is penalizing police officers for acting lawfully and penalizing every other police officer at the scene for not intervening when their colleague is acting lawfully.


ANASTAS: Alexander Reinert is a law professor at Yeshiva University. He says individual accountability is fundamental to policing.


ALEXANDER REINERT: The argument that it’s punishing officers for doing their job is a strange one to me. The officer’s job is not to behave unconstitutionally. The officer’s job is to protect and serve without violating the Constitution.


ANASTAS: Police union representatives say the City Council’s policies would prevent officers from doing their jobs and negatively impact recruitment rates. Paul DiGiacomo is president of the Detectives’ Endowment Association. He says that NYPD’s recently introduced disciplinary matrix could address Cuomo’s mandate for change.


PAUL DIGIACOMO: The matrix has been enacted, it’s in there only a couple weeks, and you didn’t give it a chance yet to see if it works, which is unfair to the people of the city and also to the people within the police department.


ANASTAS: At last week’s Council hearing, mayor’s office representative Chelsea Davis called the disciplinary matrix a living document that could still be updated if necessary. The City Council will continue considering their own reform bills to meet Cuomo’s April 1 deadline.


Katie Anastas, Columbia Radio News.