Updated: 5:59 pm, Mon. Apr 20, 2015

PBA: Put Complainants To CCRB Under Oath

Chair: May Compel Both Parties

By Mark Toor

PATRICK J. LYNCH: Hold false witnesses accountable.  
RICHARD EMERY: ‘Thinking of the implications.’  

The Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association last week called for the Civilian Complaint Review Board to act promptly in requiring people who file complaints against police officers to swear to the truth of their allegations, which would open them to perjury charges if a report turned out to be false.

PBA President Patrick J. Lynch said a rule the board is considering that would require complaints and other statements from civilians to be made under oath “is a step toward leveling the playing field.”

Consequences for Cops

He said that while officers are not required to swear to the truth of statements they make to the board, the NYPD can administratively charge them with lying during the CCRB interviews. They may face consequences up to and including dismissal, he said.

“By contrast, complainants face no consequences for lying during CCRB investigations,” he said in an April 13 letter to CCRB Chair Richard Emery, “and the board acknowledged at its most recent meeting that no attempt has ever been made to punish a complainant for filing false complaints or making false statements...I am aware of no analog in employment or in any adjudicative system where harmful consequences are imposed on a person based on false accusations.”

Mr. Emery said in an interview that the board was discussing the problem of civilians filing false complaints and is looking at requiring both complainants and police officers to take an oath. He said board members would act when they feel they have a solution.

“We’re trying to figure out what is the best way to do this,” he said. “We’re thinking of the implications.”

Change Later in Spring?

He would not give a specific deadline for settling on a policy, but would like to include it as part of rules revisions that he said would be offered in the next month or so.

The rule under discussion would require that CCRB investigators administer an oath to complainants and witnesses before conducting interviews. The PBA “has long advocated for such a change in the CCRB’s procedures...

and we believe the time has come to effect its implementation,” Mr. Lynch wrote.

But, he continued, such a policy “falls short of rectifying the injustice and imbalance that currently exists.” He said the CCRB should go further, requiring that complainants and witnesses swear to the truth of their allegations before a complaint is accepted for filing.

Can Lead to Monitoring

“As you know, the mere filing of a CCRB complaint, even those that are ultimately unsubstantiated or entirely false to begin with, have harmful consequences on an officer’s career,” he wrote.

Promotions, transfers and certain assignments may be delayed while the complaint is investigated, he said. Officers with a number of complaints against them may be placed on performance-monitoring, which involves more-intense supervision, regardless of whether the allegations are upheld, he said.

Lying by Cops Rising

Mr. Emery said, “We don’t have a lot of incidents where we feel the complainants are lying.” As for police officers, he said, 30 of them were referred to the Police Department last year for possible discipline over misstatements they may have made to the CCRB. That’s significantly more than in previous years, he added.

Whether statements should be sworn was an issue he brought to the CCRB when he took over last July, he said, and the board had been discussing it long before Mr. Lynch’s letter. He called the letter “opportunistic, if you will,” but said he welcomed the PBA’s input.