July 1, 2016

Mayor Taps Counsel As CCRB Chair; PBA Calls Her Too Close


Mayor de Blasio appointed his Counsel, Maya Wiley, June 29 as the new chair of the Civilian Complaint Review Board, leading to complaints from the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association that she was too close to the Mayor to act independently.

Ms. Wiley, 52, replaces Richard Emery, who before departing under fire from the PBA improved relations between the CCRB and the Police Department and sped up the resolution of complaints that union leaders said often dragged on and on, holding up promotions for officers involved.

Emery’s Undoing

Mr. Emery, a prominent civil-rights attorney, resigned under pressure in April after unions objected to his law firm representing a man whose complaint was upheld by the CCRB and a statement he made that they considered anti-police. The last straw was a suit filed by CCRB Executive Director Mina Malik and another staff member charging that he had made sexist remarks.

The announcement of Ms. Wiley’s appointment by Mr. de Blasio’s office said she would leave service as his top legal adviser July 15 to take up the CCRB post and become the Henry Cohen Professor for Management and Urban Policy and Senior Vice President for Social Justice at the New School. The CCRB Chair is not considered, or paid as, a full-time job.

The announcement devoted only two sentences to her CCRB role: “I look forward to working with her as Chair of the Civilian Complaint Review Board, where I know she will continue working as a champion of justice and public safety,” the Mayor said.

She said, “I’m excited to begin as chair of the Civilian Complaint Review Board, an essential city institution that plays a critical role in providing fair, ethical and objective investigations.”

‘Agent’ of Controversy

Both Mr. de Blasio and Ms. Wiley gave more attention to what they characterized as her accomplishments as Coun­sel to the Mayor, including advocating for minority- and women-owned businesses, providing broadband access for low-income neighborhoods, expanding leadership roles for women, launching the Commission on Gender Equity and strengthening the Commission on Human Rights.

Left unmentioned was her role in defending Mr. de Blasio from several investigations, particularly concerning his fund-raising activities during the unsuccessful attempt in 2014 to attain a Democratic majority in the State Senate.

Earlier this year, she defended the decision not to release Mr. de Blasio’s correspondence with five advisers, four of whom represented clients with business before the city, on the grounds that they were “agents of the city.”

She also served as the city’s Minority/Women Owned Business Enterprise Director and Mr. de Blasio’s liaison to the Mayor’s Advisory Committee on the Judiciary.

PBA President Patrick J. Lynch said, “By appointing a top aide to lead the CCRB, Mayor de Blasio has effectively removed all impartiality from the critical cases involving police officers that come before this so-called ‘independent agency.’

“While Ms. Wiley no doubt wanted to leave a City Hall caught in the middle of multiple investigations, this appointment is another example of an administration that puts politically-motivated tac­tics ahead of fairness, and demonstrates once again its increasingly hostile attitude towards the men and women who put their lives on the line to protect our city.”

Josmar Trujillo of New Yorkers Against [Police Commissioner William J.] Bratton, while politically miles apart from the PBA leader, had a reaction to the appointment of Ms. Wiley that shared some points with Mr. Lynch’s. “Maya Wiley represents a continued lack of independence from these police-coddling politics of City Hall,” he said.

“Emery tried to move the organization toward a collaborative posture with both City Hall and the NYPD—in direct conflict with promises of independence—and Wiley’s close ties with de Blasio suggest that she will continue this track, rather than positioning the CCRB as a true ‘watchdog,’” Mr. Trujillo said in a statement.

Ms. Wiley does not have a background in law-enforcement or as a prosecutor. A civil-rights attorney, she founded the Center for Social Inclusion in 2002. The group’s website says its goals are to “dismantle structural racial inequity and create equitable outcomes for all.”

Columbia Law Grad

She is a graduate of Dartmouth College and the Columbia University School of Law. She grew up in Washington, D.C. and lives in Brooklyn.

The CCRB investigates civilian complaints alleging that officers used excessive force, abused their authority, were discourteous or used offensive language. If it substantiates a complaint, it recommends discipline to the NYPD. The agency also prosecutes some cases in NYPD administrative trials.