Can an Elected Civilian Board Curb Police Misconduct?

At a public hearing at City Hall last night, advocates, city officials, and NYPD debated a proposal for a new civilian board on police misconduct. The elected review board would investigate complaints against New York police officers, especially in cases of excessive force. Hannah Critchfield reports.

 

CRITCHFIELD 1

Sal Albanese is Charter Revision Commissioner. He’s helping the city council figure out whether or not to put an amendment to the Civilian Complaint Review Board on the ballot in November. When he took the temperature of the room, the audience’s response was clear.

 

ALBANESE 1
My question is to anyone on the panel — are these things not working?

 

[laughter]

 

CRITCHFIELD 2

Many members of the audience burst out laughing,.

 

Many in the packed room are holding signs of loved ones lost to police violence and are ready to speak about their fears of law enforcement — Like Pamela Monroe, Chairwoman of the New York Campaign for an Elected Civilian Review Board — a coalition of 41 organizations.

 

MONROE 1

One day while canvassing in BK, we met a young black woman who has changed her work schedule to walk her kids to and from school. This wasn’t to protect them from gangs or from criminals — it was to protect them from the NYPD. That is why we are here tonight — for New Yorkers who are afraid of the police.]

 

CRITCHFIELD 3

 

Advocates of an elected board say it it would put power back in hands of the people — and want it to have the force of law.

 

The current Civilian Board can only make recommendations for disciplinary action. But critics say that’s ineffective. In 2017, just under four and a half thousand complaints were filed against city police officers. But to date, no officers have been fired as a result of the Board’s recommendations.

 

Rob Davis is with the National Police Foundation. He says an elected civilian review board with that kind of power would create enforcement problems within the police.

 

DAVIS 1

I mean that really poses a difficult situation for police chiefs or commission because if it takes discipline out of the hands of the police chief. That really weakens the authority of the police chief.

 

CRITCHFIELD 4

And he says there’s another problem: there’s no blueprint for how to make it work. The elected board would be the first of its kind.

 

DAVIS 2

That would be highly unusual, but as far as I know it hasn’t been tried so it would be a novel experiment your guys are doing.

 

Joseph Giacalone teaches criminal justice at John Jay College. He’s open to the idea, but not without some checks and balances. Giacalone wants candidates for the review board to undergo a review themselves.

 

GIACALONE 1

Careful examination of people’s social media histories. Anti cop bias is pretty strong. Yo… CUT AFTER “SOMEONE LIKE LIKE ME”

 

CRITCHFIELD 5

Giacalone says that’s because he is a retired NYPD Detective Sergeant.

 

GIACALONE 2

So we should’t have people who are too pro cop and we should have people wh are too anti cop.

 

CRITCHFIELD 6

Back at City Hall, Brian Corr, president of the National Association for Civilian Oversight of Law Enforcement, says the idea of an oversight board elected by civilians is becoming more common. But he’s on the fence. He’s worried about unintended consequences — like elections influenced by money.

 

CORR 3

Once you have a group of people that are elected that have oversight of the police department, there will be many many forces, locally and nationally, you’ve got four very powerful police unions you’ve got a national federation of police, there will be lots and lots of effort to make those elections turn out the way that those forces want. If you have an elected review board, it is by its very nature political.

 

CRITCHFIELD 7

The Charter Revision Commission will review comments heard at the meeting, and decide whether to put an elected Civilian Review board on the ballot in November 2019.

 

Hannah Critchfield, Columbia Radio News.

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