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Punishments not fitting the crimes

New York City is enjoying historic lows in crime and significant reductions in stop-and-frisks. New Police Commissioner James O’Neill is showing his commitment to community relations by rolling out a new community-policing program.

These efforts to reach out could establish trust between police officers and the community. A new police commissioner is in place and the promise of a new era is being undermined.

Serious Misconduct Lacking Serious Consequences

In January, the Civilian Complaint Review Board released data that showed an alarming increase in misconduct. The findings showed 1,179 cases of confirmed police misconduct over the past three years. That number represents an 82% jump from 2011 to 20013 when complaints decreased during that time.

Instead of meting out punishment directly, the CCRB leaves the final decision to the police commissioner. The agency’s recommendations are important and usually guide the decision-making process.

The CCRB now shows a pattern of serious discipline for civilian mistreatment becoming the exception and not the rule. Four years ago, 70 percent of the agency’s cases recommended loss of pay, suspension or termination. Over the next several years, that number slipped to 12 percent.

Of that 12 percent, no officer out of the 518 disciplined was fired. Only 20 received suspensions for 10 days or more or lost more than 10 days of vacation time. The other 400 were “punished” with training.

If insignificant punishments for significant misconduct were not bad enough, rulings by NYPD disciplinary judges who hear these cases are not made public. Only general statistics are released without any information on disciplinary measures.

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