Earlier this month, the NYPD published its “NYPD Member of Service Histories” database, which is composed of a large quantity of complaints against its officers recorded over decades. These records are now publicly available on the Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB) of New York City website.
The complaints date back to the year 2000, and only compose four categories of police misconduct: Force, Abuse of Authority, Discourtesy, and Offensive Language. This leaves out a large chunk of cases, involving police misconduct, simply because they “fall outside of the CCRB’s jurisdiction”, according to the CCRB website.
Until recently, Section 50-a of the New York State Civil Rights Law protected the disciplinary records of police officers, firefighters, and prison officers from being released. This was protested by activists for years, the movement gaining momentum after George Floyd’s death in 2020. It ultimately led to the law being repealed in June 2020.
Police unions, along with fire department and correction facility officers, had been trying to keep the misconduct records hidden. In February 2021, a federal appeals court rejected these efforts and allowed the records to be made public. Despite this, some police officers have been unwilling to take accountability for their actions. Ed Mullins, president of police union Sergeant Benevolent Association, stated, “I stand by my words […] I offer no apology!” in reference to the offensive language he used against a councilman who called for the defunding of police. Mullins added, “I rightfully called him a ‘first class whore’ for his unscrupulous moral values.”
Misconduct by the NYPD has not only been increasing in the past few months but has also getting support from the government. A report by Human Rights Watch last year pointed out that New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, “held a news conference with the New York Police Department (NYPD) Commissioner Dermot Shea.” In this conference, they “applauded” the police response to Black Lives Matter protestors in Mott Haven, a low-income neighborhood largely populated by people of color. In a recent official statement, the Mayor said, “Good riddance to 50-a” while completely disregarding the superficiality of his words.
Meanwhile, the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) has released a statement saying that the NYPD database release gives police unions “exactly what they wanted.” The profiles of accused police officers of “only include guilty findings from formal charges, leaving the overwhelming majority of police misconduct cases exempt from public scrutiny.” NYCLU also called this move “a slap in the face to every New Yorker that took to the streets.”
In New York City, police officers continue to use chokeholds even though they are banned. Local news organization The City reported that “The CCRB has received 880 chokehold complaints since [Eric] Garner’s death in 2014 through June 30, 2020.” Most of these complaints against police offices are either not pursued or are done away with a lenient punishment.
The nationwide protests against police brutality and racial injustice that took place last year are the largest ever recorded in U. S. history. Yet, the federal and state governments have consistently failed to provide any substantial change.