Judge Upholds Sex-Misconduct Oversight of NYPD

MANHATTAN (CN) – Putting New York City’s largest police union on notice, a judge ruled Thursday that the investigation of officers accused of sexual misconduct is not only rational and legal, it is crucial to the mission of the Civilian Complaint Review Board.

“Allegations of police sexual misconduct are exactly the type of complaint that requires an independent investigation,” wrote Judge Melissa Crane of the Manhattan Supreme Court.

The CCRB triggered the challenge by the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association of New York City with its resolution on Valentine’s Day of 2018, empowering the board to look into such matters.

Crane concluded Thursday, however, that the resolution was a reasonable response to reports of underrporting when it comes to claims of sexual misconduct against police.

“It follows logically that an alleged victim of sexual abuse by an NYPD officer might be intimidated to go back to the very precinct where she or he was abused,” the 29-page ruling states. “The CCRB’s Resolution promotes impartial investigations. It downplays the power dynamic between an alleged victim of sexual misconduct and the police officer, or a NYPD employee who investigates the misconduct.”

Though the CCRB’s attorney Jacqueline Veit of Golenbock Eiseman did not respond to an email seeking comment, PBA President Patrick Lynch highlighted the decision by Crane to toss four other CCRB rules.

“By striking down several of CCRB’s most blatant violations of its legal mandate, the court has sent a clear message that the board must begin adhering to the City Charter’s requirement to conduct ‘impartial’ investigations of civilian complaints ‘in a manner in which the public and police department have confidence,’” Lynch said in a statement.

One of the rules sought to legitimize so-called YouTube complaints, allowing those who viewed unauthenticated videos on the internet to file complaints in lieu of victims.

Judge Crane also today struck down rules that allowed the board to review incidents without an official complaint being filed, gave it final authority on plea deals, and empowered it to consider unsubstantiated, unfounded and withdrawn complaints in its rationale for a finding against a police officer. 

“Today’s ruling is a step in the right direction, because it validates what New York City police officers have always known about CCRB: it is an openly anti-police agency that views its mission as advocating on behalf of the complainant and against police officers,” Lynch said in a statement. 

As for the sexual-misconduct finding, Lynch said that the union is considering its options.

The New York Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU Women’s Rights Project filed a friend-of-the-court brief backing the review board’s position in the litigation.

“Today’s ruling affirms that sexual abuse is a grave form of police misconduct and should be reviewed by the CCRB to help ensure that investigations are transparent and fair,” the NYCLU’s executive director Donna Lieberman said in a statement. “Survivors of sexual harassment have been silenced for far too long, but today’s decision is a welcome first step toward increased police accountability.”

New York state law prohibits agencies from adopting rules that are “unreasonable, arbitrary or capricious.”

But Judge Crane found “ample evidence” to back the board’s resolution.

“As explained in the CCRB’s public memorandum and in its motion papers, the CCRB did extensive research in arriving in its decision to investigate sexual misconduct allegations,” she wrote.

The ruling goes on to describe studies, which “demonstrated that, as an internal entity of the NYPD, the IAB’s investigation of sexual misconduct complaints severely undermined the public confidence in the NYPD.”

“CCRB’s investigation into sexual misconduct claims suggests heighted (sic) agency consciousness, not arbitrariness,” the ruling continues.

The NYCLU’s Lieberman underscored the need for independent review.

“We know what happens when the police are left to police themselves,” she said.

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