Photo Courtesy of Benjamin Kanter/Mayoral Photography Office
Commissioner O’Neill said, “A fair clear and consistent discipline system is essential to the police and public alike, and the twin virtues of transparency and accountability are essential to building mutual trust and respect between cops and the communities they serve.”
By Michael V. Cusenza
The City Police Department is accepting the Independent Panel’s complete list of recommendations to improve the NYPD internal disciplinary system, Police Commissioner Jim O’Neill announced on Friday.
O’Neill appointed the Independent Panel, consisting of former U.S. Attorney Mary Jo White, former U.S. Attorney Robert Capers, and former U.S. District Court Judge Barbara Jones, on June 21, 2018, to conduct an autonomous, extensive review of the embattled system and to propose recommendations to improve it.
The panel blasted the department for “a fundamental and pervasive lack of transparency into the disciplinary process and about disciplinary outcomes.”
The panel’s thorough 57-page analysis paints a picture of department disciplinary proceedings shrouded in secrecy.
“The end result is a system that is understandably perceived by the public and others as gesturing towards some transparency, but ultimately remaining largely closed to any external scrutiny,” White, Capers and Jones wrote.
On Friday, O’Neill announced that an NYPD Implementation Panel will now administer the operational, legal and budgetary plan to enact all recommendations. Some of the recommendations can be implemented in the short-term, over the next 30-60 days. Another set of changes will require additional time to take effect. The NYPD will also ask an outside entity to perform an external audit of the overall implementation process, O’Neill added.
“A fair clear and consistent discipline system is essential to the police and public alike, and the twin virtues of transparency and accountability are essential to building mutual trust and respect between cops and the communities they serve,” the police commissioner said on Friday after thanking the panel for donating “their valuable time, skills and efforts to perform a vital public service to New York City.”
The following recommendations will be put into place within the next 30-60 days:
• The department should support amendments to 50-a to increase transparency and enhance accountability
• The NYPD must guard against unwarranted expansion of the scope of 50-a (section of Civil Rights Law that prohibits the release of information on internal police disciplinary action)
• The NYPD should also enhance its public reporting in line with that of other agencies
• The NYPD should publish trial room calendars
• The Police Commissioner should enhance the documentation of variances from disciplinary recommendations
The remaining recommendations will require more time to be fully implemented:
• The department should appoint a Citizens’ Liaison
• The NYPD should adopt protocols to insulate decision makers from external pressures and minimize the appearance of inappropriate influence over the disciplinary process
• The department should study and consider adopting a disciplinary matrix
• The department should take measures to expedite disciplinary adjudications
• The department should strengthen enforcement of false statement disciplinary policie
• The department should adopt presumptive penalties in domestic violence cases as recommended by the Commission to Combat Police Corruption
• The department should upgrade and integrate its Case Management System
“These thoughtful reform proposals represent meaningful progress in the never-ending mission to make our city safer and fairer,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “I commend the police commissioner for launching this review and for adopting its important findings.”