The New York Police Department has a new Blue Wall of Silence. When it comes to disciplining problem officers, the nation’s largest police department has created a barrier to shield its cops from public scrutiny. It is something the NYPD admits does little to build public trust but says is required under its own interpretation of a controversial law, the New York Daily News reports in the first of a four-part series. Critics contend the NYPD has misinterpreted the law, and that records should be made public. Two years ago, the NYPD reversed a decadeslong practice, opting not to release the findings of its disciplinary actions against cops accused of misconduct.
The department claimed it had been inadvertently violating the 1976 state Civil Rights Law, which bars the release of disciplinary findings against uniformed officers unless a judge orders it. Under the new policy, the department never made public the penalties for officers cited for a range of misdeeds. The Daily News obtained 55 disciplinary cases that were decided upon by Police Commissioner James O’Neill between July 22 and Sept. 29, 2017. For example, Capt. Scott Forster went home after his shift instead of going to a hospital to support the families of two Brooklyn cops shot and wounded in the line of duty in 2016. While his dereliction of duty made headlines, as did his demotion to lieutenant and a 30-day suspension, the fact that he was docked 45 vacation days and suspended an additional 15 days did not. Neither did the punishment given to Detective Gennady Ladyzhinsky, whom O’Neill found guilty in September of using a work-issued smartphone to view porn websites. Ladyzhinsky also lost 45 vacation days.