Wall Street Journal

April 2, 2017 6:04 p.m.

New York Police Union Amps Up Its Criticism of Watchdog Board


New York City Patrolman's Benevolent Association President Patrick Lynch says the Civilian Complaint Review Board needs revamping. PHOTO: JOHN MINCHILLO/ASSOCIATED PRESS

The president of the largest police union in New York City ramped up criticism of a city agency that investigates complaints against the New York Police Department after a recent leak of disciplinary records.

Patrick Lynch, president of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, on Friday sent a letter to Police Commissioner James O’Neill and Mayor Bill de Blasio requesting reforms of the Civilian Complaint Review Board, including staff training and vetting to prevent bias.

“The recent illegal release of police officers’ confidential personnel records by a CCRB employee has once again demonstrated that the CCRB is beset with a systemic anti-police bias,” Mr. Lynch said in the letter, which was reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.

Last month, documents showing the disciplinary history of Daniel Pantaleo, the officer who placed a Staten Island man in a fatal chokehold in 2014, were published on the website ThinkProgress. An employee with the CCRB later resigned when the city agency presented the possibility of termination.

The disciplinary records of former police officer Richard Haste, who had just resigned after being found guilty in a department disciplinary trial, were then published. Mr. Haste had finished a department trial for demonstrating poor police tactics when he pursued an unarmed 18-year-old teenager and forcibly entered his Bronx home without calling for backup. Thinking the teenager was armed, Mr. Haste fatally shot Ramarley Graham in his bathroom. No weapon was recovered.

“Upon learning that misconduct occurred, the CCRB acted immediately,” said Jerika Richardson, senior adviser and secretary to the board. “A swift and thorough investigation resulted in the identification of the individual who leaked those confidential documents and their departure from the agency.”

Mr. Lynch said the release of the documents was illegal because it violated a state law the city has cited in not making disciplinary information of police officers public. The city’s interpretation of the law has been criticized by watchdogs and activists. Mayor de Blasio has said the law needs to be changed.

“Albeit a deeply flawed state statute, this administration takes seriously the lawful adherence to 50-A as we continue fighting for its overhaul and the transparency New Yorkers deserve,” a mayoral spokesman said Sunday.

The NYPD for years made the information public through their press office before stopping in March of 2016.

“The leaks are not the result of a rogue employee,” Mr. Lynch said in the letter. “But rather symptomatic of a culture indifferent to the breaking of laws and violations of the City Charter language that mandates the [CCRB’s] impartiality.”

“CCRB is committed to impartial and independent investigations that ensure a fair and just outcome for civilians and police officers alike,” an agency spokesman said on Sunday.

Mr. Lynch also requested the CCRB’s ability to prosecute officers in department disciplinary trials be suspended.

The de Blasio spokesman said the CCRB is needed to investigate and prosecute civilian complaints fairly.

“The strengthened relationship and open dialogue between the CCRB and NYPD has helped hold officers accountable for their actions and given the public a deserved voice at the table,” the spokesman said Sunday.