Testimony at Civilian Complaint Review Board hearing on NYPD disciplinary matrix

Testimony at Civilian Complaint Review Board hearing on NYPD disciplinary matrix

Thank you to Chair Davie and the entire CCRB for convening this hearing to gather public input on this important issue.

Last June, we in the New York City Council passed a long-overdue bill requiring the NYPD to develop a disciplinary matrix that would spell out a recommended range of penalties for each type of violation.

This issue is very personal to my constituents. More than six years ago, then-Officer Daniel Pantaleo used an unauthorized chokehold that killed my constituent, Eric Garner. The officer then held his job for more than five years, and we had no indication that he would be dismissed from the department until the commissioner made the announcement in 2019. What is even more painful is knowing that Pantaleo had multiple substantiated claims of misconduct before he killed Mr. Garner in Tompkinsville Park in 2014. If NYPD’s disciplinary system functioned the way disciplinary systems in other professions function, Pantaleo and other officers with similar records of repeat offenses would not be on the force.

That is the primary motivation behind this matrix, to give some semblance of order to the disciplinary process, to give standards that all officers are held to and that all officers understand.

Unfortunately, while this new matrix moves our city in the right direction, it does not guarantee that the civil rights of all New Yorkers will be respected. This matrix can be rendered meaningless at the sole discretion of the police commissioner, and that is troubling to me and to my constituents. Under this document, the NYPD Commissioner retains the ultimate discretion to override the recommendation of the matrix, just as the Commissioner has for years had the power to override the decisions of the Civilian Complaint Review Board. The NYPD should not have the ability to excuse violations committed by its own officers.

Under this new matrix, the Commissioner merely has to issue a memo explaining the factors he considered, and the Department will be required to report on how often the Commissioner deviated from the matrix. It is then up to vigilant elected officials, community activists and the press to keep a close eye on those deviations and continue to call for accountability.

I have long said that accountability, transparency and consistency are the steps to police reform as it relates to respecting the civil rights of all New Yorkers. This matrix brings some level of transparency and consistency to the process, as the public will know when officers were held to standards and when they were not. But it fails to bring true accountability, as it is only meaningful if we have an NYPD Commissioner who abides by this matrix.

The mayor and the commissioner have called this a living document. I and many across the city call on them to revise this matrix and make disciplinary authority independent of the NYPD and bring New Yorkers the true accountability they deserve.


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