February 26, 2010

NYPD Experimenting With CCRB Lawyers Trying Cop Cases



PATRICK J. LYNCH: ‘A cynical p.r. stunt.’

The Police Department announced a pilot program Feb. 18 allowing its independent watchdog agency — the Civilian Complaint Review Board — to use its own lawyers to prosecute officers, a move that angered the main NYPD union.

Currently, NYPD attorneys act as lead prosecutors in cops’ administrative trials, with CCRB lawyers offering support in what’s called the “second seat.” The department’s pilot program with the CCRB is meant to expand civilian oversight of uniformed police.

NYPD Drops Opposition

The idea had been first introduced last summer in the City Council by Bill de Blasio (who is now Public Advocate) and Councilman Daniel Garodnick, with the NYPD chief spokesman dismissing the notion as “unnecessary.” Both sides have changed their tunes on the issue.

“The Police Department and the CCRB have worked closely and successfully to improve the way in which allegations against police officers are adjudicated, including the creation of a ‘second seat’ in the NYPD’s prosecution at trial of administrative cases, and the encouragement of mediation in non-force-related cases between accused officers and civilian complainants,” Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly said in a statement.

But Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association President Patrick J. Lynch blasted the program, stating, “There is no need for CCRB prosecutors in the NYPD. This change is nothing more than a cynical public-relations stunt, designed to placate the usual police critics. Having said that, this pilot program will force CCRB to live with its flawed investigations and overblown, politically motivated charges by having to prove them at trial before NYPD judges. We hope that being part of the process gives them pause before second-guessing the actions of police officers in the future.”

Mr. de Blasio expressed mixed feelings about the program.

“We respect and appreciate this step as an acknowledgement of the need for change at the CCRB,” he said in a statement. “But another pilot program is not enough. It is already abundantly clear that the city needs a more-independent, responsive, and effective CCRB.”