Civilian Complaint Review Board

Established in its current incarnation in 1993 under the leadership of former New York City Mayor David N. Dinkins, the Civilian Complaint Review Board asserts to be the largest civilian oversight agency of its kind within the United States, and investigates thousands of civilian complaints each year.

Even though it has only existed in its current form for a little over a decade, the conception of a board delegated power to investigate complaints about potential police misconduct predates the administration of Robert Wagner, who was responsible for investing the nascent Civilian Complaint Review Board-which was then comprised solely of three deputy police commissioners-with new powers in 1955. However, it remained a province of the NYPD, with all investigations being conducted by police officers, and their findings forwarded to the deputy commissioners for recommendation.

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In 1965, Mayor John Lindsay would ask former federal judge Lawrence E. Walsh to conduct an investigation into the role of the review board. He would recommend that members of the general public, non-police officers, be given substantial authority in any new civilian complaint review board. Subsequently, Lindsay designed a search committee tasked with finding civilians fit to serve on this new review board, which was chaired by former Attorney General Herbert Brownell.

After much debate-and opposition to the proposal from the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association-Mayor Lindsay decided to appoint four civilians to the reconstituted board. This prompted opponents of the newly redesigned board to campaign for a city ballot proposal that would have forbidden any direct civilian oversight of uniformed police officers in New York City. The measure was enacted by an overwhelming margin, and the review board once again came under the sole purview of the New York Police Department.

In 1986, the New York City Council enacted a piece of legislation that called for imposing some degree of civilian oversight once again, which led to the appointment of six new members by the mayor-with the advice and consent of the City Council-and six by the police commissioner. The Civilian Complaints Investigative Bureau then began to hire civilians to investigate complaints lodged against the NYPD, but did so with the oversight of police department investigators and employees.

The incident that galvanized some members of the political body politic and certain segments of the public behind the movement for an all-civilian supervisory board occurred on August 6, 1988, where individuals protesting a curfew imposed over Tompkins Square Park were forcibly removed from the premises. The Civilian Complaint Review Board commissioned an investigation into this incident, and published a report that was extremely critical of NYPD conduct during that confrontation. Critics of internal police procedures used the Tompkins Square “riots” in order to press for an all-civilian review board.

In 1993 Mayor Dinkins and the New York City Council created the Civilian Complaint Review Board in its current incarnation and invested it with subpoena authority, and gave it the ability to recommend disciplinary measures in cases where police misconduct were verified and substantiated. Over the years, NYPD officers have come under public scrutiny with allegations of corruption, brutality, excessive use of force, and poor firearm discipline. [1] Individual incidents have tended to receive more publicity; a portion of which have been substantiated while others have not.

The Knapp Commission in the 1970s, and the Mollen Commission in 1994 have led to reforms within the NYPD aimed to improve police accountability. However in recent years, likely due to low salaries and declining morale, many more off-duty NYPD officers are being arrested and charged in and outside the city for crimes ranging from drunk driving to homicide. [2] One of the department’s most spectacular cases of corruption was that of Lt. Charles Becker, who holds the dubious distinction of being the only NYPD officer to die in the electric chair.

Due to repeated public outcry over these and many other incidents, specifically, the Tompkins Square Riot of the 1988, and the Crown Heights Riot, prompted the creation of the Civilian Complaint Review Board[3] (known commonly by its acronym, the CCRB) in 1993, an independent investigative unit of entirely civilian investigators (with some being former members of the NYPD), who investigate allegations of Force, Discourtesy, Offensive Language and Abuse of Authority made by members of the public against members of the NYPD.

Complaints are made directly to the CCRB, through the city’s 311 information system, online at nyc. gov/ccrb, or at any Precinct within the city limits. This was the third iteration (after an attempt by Mayor Lindsay and Mayor Koch before to create “mixed” review boards), but was the first to employ an all civilian Board and investigative staff. [4] [edit] Today The CCRB exits today as a fully independent civil department, staffed with 100 investigators and about a dozen miscellaneous employees.

Additionally, three officers from the NYPD’s Monitoring and Analysis Section of the Department Advocate’s Office work with the CCRB at their office at 40 Rector Street. Their role is to provide the Investigators with access to certain restricted NYPD documentation quickly and efficiently without having to wait the lengthy processing period document requests normally take (sometimes outlasting the course of an investigation). The agency is headed by the 13 board members, who defer day-to-day operational command to an Executive Director (currently Ms. Joan Thompson, as of September 18, 2007, formally Ms. Florence Finkle, Esq. , who is then followed by the First Deputy Executive Director, which was formerly known as the Assistant Deputy Executive Director before that position was transformed into its new form (this later position remains unfilled). The Agency then separates into several divisions, the largest being the Investigative division led by a Deputy Executive Director of Investigations, followed by four Assistant Deputy Executive Directors of Investigations. However, due to budget cuts in 2009, the Deputy Executive Director of Investigations and three of the Assistant Deputy Executive Directors of Investigations were eliminated, leaving the

Investigations division under direction of the First Deputy Executive Director and one Assistant Deputy Executive Director of Investigations. [5] The division is then broken down into 8 Investigative Teams, led by an Investigative Manager, along with a Supervising Investigator and an Assistant Supervising Investigator. Initially, there had been 7 Investigative Team Managers, with two teams sharing one manager, but in early 2010, budget cuts have forced the agency to restructure under 6 Investigative Managers.

Promotions to Assistant Supervising Investigator and Supervising Investigator are not necessarily granted to Investigators based on tenure or rate or result of investigations. [5] The remaining Investigators fall into Level I and Level II, which simply denotes tenure, experience and pay grade. The agency is also broken down into an Administrative Division, which includes Human Resources, Information Management Unit and the Case Management Unit (which stores all records of past cases), amongst others, which is led by the Deputy Executive Director of Administration. 5] There are then four other directorships, the Research and Strategic Initiatives Director, Mediation Unit Director, Director of Intergovernmental and Legal Affairs, and the Press Secretary. However, 2009 budget cuts have also caused the Press Secretary and Outreach Unit to be eliminated. There is also an attorney, Mr. Grahram Daw, Esq. , who serves as the Agency’s legal counsel. These units compliment and serve the Investigations Unit, which acts as the main focal point of the Agency. [5]

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