New York Post
February 22, 2010

Kelly and BloombergA plan to allow civilian lawyers to prosecute cases of alleged misconduct by New York City police officers drew scorn from both police unions and civil rights advocates Friday. With the president of the city's largest police officers union calling the move a "cynical public relations stunt," the New York Civil Liberties Union said it may allow the department to continue to pick the cases it wants to prosecute and subvert the review process. On Thursday, NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly and Ernest Hart of the Civilian Complaint Review Board said they had agreed to start a pilot project in which CCRB attorneys will prosecute some police officers accused of misconduct in front of a police department judge. The CCRB currently investigates complaints against officers but can only recommend cases it believes the department should prosecute. According to the NYCLU, the department chose not to prosecute nearly 35 percent of complaints substantiated by the CCRB in 2007 and 2008. After decades of haggling and lawsuits between unions, civil rights advocates, and city officials, the CCRB was formed as an all-civilian entity in 1993. Before and since, it's been widely seen as ineffectual because the NYPD routinely does not prosecute many of the cases of misconduct it recommends. CCRB First Deputy Meera Joshi said no decision had been made on who will decide which cases its lawyers will pursue, or how many cases they will handle. "That's being negotiated right now as to who makes case selection and what resources are available," she said. NYCLU executive director Donna Lieberman criticized the so-far vague details of the plan and said the agreement "looks like one more attempt to co-opt civilian oversight." In a sharply worded statement, Patrolmen's Benevolent Association president Patrick Lynch called CCRB investigations "flawed." "We hope that being part of the process gives [the CCRB] pause before second-guessing the actions of police officers in the future," he said. Under the program, attorneys would still argue cases in a department trial room before an administrative judge employed by the department, officials said. The police commissioner also retains the power to disagree with the judge's decisions, and to make a final determination of punishment. Neither of Long Island's county police departments have civilian review boards, relying instead on internal affairs detectives to investigate misconduct complaints. Earlier this year, Suffolk police said they would launch a new program in which an independent mediator would be available to help resolve low-level complaints against officers.