NYC Cops Push Back on Civilians’ Sex-Misconduct Oversight

MANHATTAN (CN) – New York City’s largest police union filed a lawsuit Tuesday seeking to block expanded sexual-misconduct oversight from the city’s independent civilian review board.

In a 50-page petition filed in Manhattan Supreme Court by attorney Jacqueline Veit of Golenbock Eiseman, the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association of New York City and its president Patrick Lynch claim the city’s Civilian Complaint Review Board “unilaterally and impermissibly granted itself authority to investigate sexual misconduct allegations against police officers.”

Seeking a judge’s order to block the CCRB’s new rule from going into effect, the PBA’s petition argues “the unfettered discretion provided by Revised Rule 1-44 will lead to uneven enforcement against police officers.”

On Feb. 14, the CCRB passed a resolution to begin investigating civilian allegations of sexual misconduct by members of the NYPD, which have previously been referred to department’s Internal Affairs Bureau.

The CCRB has been an impartial agency independent of the police force since a 1993 city charter established the board in its current all-civilian form.

The board consists of 13 members – five designated by the City Council, three selected by the police commissioner and five appointed by the mayor.

According to the board’s rules, no member of the CCRB may have a law enforcement background, except the ones designated by the police commissioner.

The February resolution allows for two phases of sexual misconduct investigations involving NYPD officers.

In the first stage, the board commences investigation of allegations of verbal sexual harassment, sexual harassment using physical gestures, taking unwarranted photographs or videos, sexual humiliation, sexually motivated stops, summonses, or arrests and sexual or romantic propositions.

The second phase – to be conducted after issues in phase one have been reported on – calls for the investigation and administrative prosecution of more serious allegations, including over-the-clothing groping during frisks, sexual assault, forcible rape, on-duty sexual activity and penetrative sexual contact.

The PBA claims in its petition that the CCRB’s expanded investigative jurisdiction goes beyond the board’s four categories that apply to allegations against police: excessive force, abuse of authority, discourtesy and use of offensive language.

“The result is a series of revised rules that violate statutory mandates, lack any rational justification, unfairly prejudice police officers, and threaten to undermine public confidence in the CCRB,” the petition states.

The police union calls the CCRB’s new authority arbitrary and capricious and a “gross overreaching by the CCRB, in a manner that undermines its legislative purpose.”

The petition claims that the resolution will result in the funneling “of sexual misconduct complaints to an agency that admittedly lacks the training and experience to handle them.”

The PBA slammed the CCRB resolution in a statement Tuesday.

In a statement Tuesday, the PBA called the CCRB resolution a “bold-faced power grab.”

“The CCRB has always been infected with an anti-police bias, and has never lived up to its responsibility under the city charter to conduct ‘complete, thorough and impartial’ investigations of civilian complaints ‘in a manner in which the public and police department have confidence,’” PBA President Lynch said. “But these recent rule changes are a bold-faced power grab to create a CCRB regime that is more abusive to police officers than ever before.”

Lynch added, “The deck was already stacked before these illegal rules were adopted and so, we are asking the court to level it out.”

The PBA’s petition also claims officers face the risk of being subject to multiple overlapping investigations and inconsistent determinations because the CCRB resolution lacks mechanisms to recognize the potential for separate investigations by the Internal Affairs Bureau or other agencies.

The CCRB declined to comment on the pending litigation, but a spokesperson said the board is “committed to conducting its investigations in a thorough, impartial manner.”

The PBA is the designated collective-bargaining agent for the more than 23,000 police officers employed by the NYPD.

In January, the union sued Mayor Bill de Blasio and NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill to block the release of body-cam footage of three police-related shootings.

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