Cop Complainers Feeling Frisky

The number of allegations made to the Civilian Complaint Review Board of improper frisks by NYPD officers jumped 365 percent last year, according to the agency's annual report released last week—one day after the City Council and the mayor agreed to a budget that restores funding for the CCRB's highest headcount ever.

The CCRB had been under threat of losing 24 of its 143 investigators. It dodged the bullet this year, but it seems that funding hasn't been "baselined" in the budget deal, meaning the same threat could loom next spring. That's a worry, because the agency is seeing increasing numbers of complaints each year.

According to the annual report, the CCRB took in 6,796 complaints last year—a 47 percent leap since 2002. It's unclear if the boom reflects a change in police tactics or the increasing ease of making complaints through the 311 system. Most of the complaints involved "abuse of authority" (improper arrest, unnecessary searches, etc.) rather than excessive force or discourtesy. In about 10 percent of fully investigated cases, the CCRB substantiated the complaint. In more than half of full investigations, the board either found the cop was right or that the alleged incident didn't happen. It's worth keeping in mind that more than half of the complaints never get fully probed because the alleged victim withdraws, disappears, refuses to talk, or can't even be identified.

Once the CCRB substantiates that police misconduct has occurred, it recommends discipline and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly decides whether to impose any, and what kind. Kelly usually (71 percent of the time) does punish the officer. However, Kelly tends to call for far lighter sanctions than the CCRB wants. He gave "instructions," the lightest sentence, to 60 percent of officers even though the CCRB called for tougher charges against most of them.


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