For 13 years, New York City’s independent Civilian Complaint Review Board has probed allegations of police misconduct ranging from foul language to outright brutality. Its 143 investigators monitor the nation’s largest law enforcement organization, the 35,000-member NYPD. If Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s proposed 2007 budget goes through unchanged, the board says it will have to cut 24 investigators. If its head count shrinks, the board warns, the city will pay a price: More cases of substantiated police misconduct will expire under the 18-month statute of limitations, and more cops who’ve done something wrong will escape discipline.
Many cops express disdain for board, which they see as a constraint on their ability to do the job and a way for disgruntled civilians to make cops’ lives difficult. Still, they face pretty good odds. Last year, the board substantiated allegations in a mere 7 percent of the cases it probed. Many complaints were dropped for lack of evidence or because the officer left the force. Mostly, allegations were deemed untrue or the cop was determined to have acted correctly. Even if the board finds the cops at fault, it can only recommend discipline The final call is the NYPD’s. Commissioner Ray Kelly has ordered discipline more often than his predecessors–more than 70 percent of the time–but he tends to impose more lenient punishment than the board seeks: From 2000 to 2003, in cases in which the board urged formal charges, he ordered them only 17 percent of the time.