NYC to Make Any Deadly Force, Used Wrongly, a Fireable Offense for Police

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio in a Monday press conference. (Image via Courthouse News)

MANHATTAN (CN) — New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a disciplinary matrix Monday to guide how the nation’s largest police department handles disciplining officers for a range of misconduct from excessive force and hate speech to misuse of body camera.

Unveiled as the demand for police accountability and reform has spurred civil demonstrations across the country, the matrix is expected to take effect by January, and is subject to a 30-day public comment period. 

“We want discipline to be a straightforward matter,” de Blasio said at a press conference. “We want it to be clear that when certain actions are taken, when certain mistakes are made, that there will be accountability.” 

Released in draft form, the 48-page guidelines state that the punishment for any officer who employs unwarranted deadly physical force, even if their actions do not result in death, is termination. And when unauthorized use of deadly physical force does result in serious injury or death, any officer who witnessed such force but failed to intervene will be fired as well. 

“The primary duty of all members of the service is to protect human life, including the lives of individuals being placed in police custody,” the draft says.

If an officer intentionally uses a chokehold, they will be fired, according to the matrix. Though the New York City Police Department has for years banned chokeholds, city and state lawmakers passed legislation outlawing the tactic just in the past few months. The law is named after Eric Garner, a Staten Island man whose 2014 death in police chokehold was never prosecuted.

The matrix outlines several other guidelines for punishment of misconduct, including a three-day suspension or loss of vacation days if an officer fails to turn on his or her body camera while responding to an incident. If the body camera is not turned on intentionally, the officer can face a 20-day punishment. 

If an officer acquires more than 90 penalty days for misconduct they may be fired, according to the matrix.

The matrix notes that supervisors may face harsher penalties for misconduct, as the department has higher expectations for those individuals. Low-level offenses such as improper search of a person or vehicle will result in retraining for that officer. 

In 2018, the NYPD asked a Blue Ribbon Panel to conduct a review of the department’s disciplinary system. The panel found that while the system was mostly fair, the department lacked transparency into the disciplinary process of officers.

Speaking on the panel’s findings at Monday’s press conference, Police Commissioner Dermot Shea said that trust between the NYPD and the community is critical, and that this matrix will better provide transparency on how officers are disciplined.

“Over the past nearly seven years, our NYPD officers have worked tirelessly to carry out a series of cutting edge reforms, all geared toward increasing fairness, impartiality and accountability in policing and to deepen our ties with those we serve in every New York City neighborhood,” Shea said in a press release. “Our work to deepen these critical efforts across all aspects of the NYPD continues.”

The matrix comes as part of NYC’s plan to fulfill the Obama Foundation Pledge that de Blasio took in June to commit to reviewing use-of-force policies and reform.

Other reforms already adopted under de Blasio include the distribution of body cameras to all officers, an overhaul of use-of-force policies and implicit bias training. 

“We appreciate that the vast majority of officers are in this work for a profound reason, they want to help people, they want to protect people,” said de Blasio at a press conference. “We need to make sure that the culture of policing continues to improve as well to be just as good as the motivation that led people into this crucial work.”

The union that represents the NYPD did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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