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Report Blasts NYPD in Study on Use of Force

(CN) - Even when it had evidence about excessive force, the New York City Police Department failed to discipline the officers involved, a report by the city watchdog finds.

"Historically, NYPD has frequently failed to discipline officers who use force without justification," the report published Thursday states.

The New York City Department of Investigation's Office of the Inspector for the NYPD called the 89-page study its first comprehensive report on officers' use of force.

In addition to the lack of discipline in cases of excessive force, the inspector's office also found an inability to track such cases, as well as failure to teach and use de-escalation tactics.

The inspectors studied 207 allegations of force in 179 cases between 2010 and 2014.

They called this "a notably modest number, given the size of NYPD, and a positive indication of the NYPD's restraint."

Yet in 36 percent of cases in which the NYPD commissioner was presented with verified evidence of excessive force, the officers were not disciplined, investigators found.

That number has dropped to 11 percent, however, in the past 18 months, according to the report.

Notably, it has been 15 months since a city coroner ruled the death of Eric Garner in a police chokehold a homicide. The case remains a source of protest in the city as the minutes of the grand jury that elected not to charge that officer, Daniel Pantaleo, remain under wraps.

The report notes that the NYPD began its latest training program for officers, dubbed the Smart Policing (20K) Initiative, in response to Garner's July 2014 death.

Investigators hailed the nascent cooperation between the NYPD and the Civilian Complaint Review Board on holding officers accountable for use of excessive force.

Since January 2014, auditors observed a slowing number of instances in which the NYPD downgrades the board's disciplinary recommendation by imposing a lesser penalty or no penalty.

During the years of the study, however, this occurred two out of three times.

NYPD Commissioner Mark Peters acknowledged the problem.

"Long-term reform of police practices requires an unblinking view of the past," Peters said in a statement. "Our investigation demonstrates real problems, including failures of discipline, monitoring and training. But those same findings will also support the necessary changes to come."

The inspectors found that the Police Academy offers nearly 500 hours in coursework, but only one nine-hour class deals with the use of force.

Another class that is half as long addresses the topic of de-escalation techniques.

The report recommends that academy curriculum include a specific class on de-escalation tactics, and that the Patrol Guide's definitions of "force," "excessive force" and "deadly physical force" see updates.

Officers must also be required to document any incident of force, and the NYPD should create a database on force incidents, according to the report.

In addition to publishing an annual report of such findings, the report pushes for the department to collect and publish data on disciplinary trends, including the percentage of cases in which the commissioner reduces or eliminates the penalty.

The inspectors found that 56 percent of the officers involved in force incidents are white, while 57 percent of those who report such incidents are black.

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