New York Daily News

Updated: October 1, 2015, 4:55 PM



Cops must report any use of force under new NYPD rules


Cops who use force will now have to fill out a Use of Force report after every incident, the NYPD said Thursday.

If a cop lays a finger on someone, they are going to have to report it, according to new NYPD guidelines handed down Thursday.

Cops who use force against anyone — be it by hand strike or handgun — will now have to fill out a Use of Force report after every incident, according to NYPD’s Chief of Staff Kevin Ward said Thursday.

“We are putting out new guidelines and will investigate every time force is used,” Ward said. “It is within (the cops’) best interest to put it on paper.”

Ward said police officers who don’t report interactions when force is used will be disciplined, but did not explain what the officers could face.

The new rules close a large loophole – cops currently aren’t required to fill out reports if force is used on someone who isn’t arrested, and there’s no current comprehensive method tracking use of force.

"The deficiencies in this department were significant,” NYPD Police Commissioner Bill Bratton said Thursday about the department’s tracking of incidents when force is used. “(There were) a lack of policies in this area.”

Earlier on Thursday, Inspector General Phil Eure, who is mandated to oversee department’s policies, said the NYPD’s tracking of force incidents was out of the “dark ages.”

“We are putting out new guidelines and will investigate every time force is used,” NYPD’s Chief of Staff Kevin Ward said.

He also noted that cops “too often did not de-escalate encounters.”

In conjunction with the new policies, NYPD supervisors will be hammering home the importance of utilizing de-escalation measures that will make the use of force unnecessary, Ward said.

“We are going to talk to the people...tell them that there are going to be additional charges if they don’t comply or we may have to use less than lethal force options on them,” Ward said. “A lot of times it’s been shown that if you tell them that they will get additional charges or you are going to use less than lethal force, they will comply.”

According to the new guidelines, force will be measured in three levels. Level one will be hand strikes, kicks, the use of pepper spray or takedowns like the one retired tennis pro James Blake suffered last month.

Level two will involve the use of batons and Tasers and level three will involve firearms, the guidelines explain.

If any of these levels are reached, cops will have to fill out a report, as well as indicate injuries the person suffered, when they fill out their incident reports.

In an internal memo, NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton highlighted the fact that any force against cops will also be tracked with the reports.

Any injuries will also be categorized, from bruises (level one) to ER visits (level two) to prolonged hospitalization and critical injuries (level three), Ward noted.

“Each level of injury and each use of force will have a corresponding review,” Ward said.

Cops will also be required to fill out a report when a suspect uses force on them, the chief said.

The new reports will be part of the daily routine for cops by the beginning of next year, Ward said.

In addition, cops will be encouraged to report use of force by other officers. If a cop witnesses force being used and doesn’t report it, they could be cited for misconduct and face anything from “discipline to dismissal,” Ward said.

Last month, NYPD Police Commissioner Bill Bratton said force was used in a very small number of arrests.

Out of more than 4 million arrests between 2002 and 2013, cops used force 164,000 times, or in about 4% of arrests, he said.

Force complaints to the Civilian Complaint review board are also down by 18% so far this year. At the end of August, the CCRB fielded 2,564 force complaints, down 596 from the same time period in 2014, according to agency statistics.

Bratton prepared his officers for the additional rules with an internal memo, where he promoted the fact that any force against cops will also be counted.

“The national conversation has been too one-sided for too long,” Bratton said about use of force complaints. “The vast majority of the time, cops use force because force is used against them. Using force against a cop is never permissible, and this fact is worth repeating: under the New York State Penal Law, there is absolutely no right to resist arrest.”

Since Blake’s takedown, police watchdog groups like the New York City Liberties Union have demanded that cops catalog all incidents when force was used.

They NYCLU said Thursday it was happy that Bratton took their recommendation to heart.

Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association President Pat Lynch blasted the new guidelines.

"(Bratton’s) announcement is a welcome recognition from the NYPD that use of force is a serious problem and that we need real data in order to have real reform," NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman said. "What happened to tennis star James Blake is just one example of the harm suffered by countless New Yorkers at the hands of the NYPD, whose stories have largely remained hidden to the public."

Lieberman said she hoped the NYPD would go further and catalog incidents where cops forced people to put their hands against cars or buildings.

That type of force is not reflected in the new guidelines, but it could be added to the list of force incidents if the subject sustains an injury, according to Ward.

The city’s largest police union blasted the new policy Thursday.

"No amount of new training or additional paperwork will make necessary force that is lawful and properly used by police officers acceptable to those who want to return to the hands-off, reactive policing strategies that sent crime soaring in the past,” Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association President Pat Lynch said in a statement. “More paperwork coupled with a serious shortage of police officers and the continual second-guessing of their actions is a formula for disaster.”