MANHATTAN (CN) – The New York City Police Department has never substantiated one of the thousands of bias complaints against its officers, and reports of racial slurs by police are not enough to spark a disciplinary investigation for biased policing.
Those are the damning findings of a report released on Wednesday by the Department of Investigation, the city’s top watchdog.
“Biased policing, actual or perceived, undermines the core value of equal treatment under the law and also poses a threat to public safety because racial profiling and other types of biased policing undermine the public’s confidence and trust in law enforcement,” inspector general Philip Eure said in a statement this afternoon. “NYPD must ensure that these complaints are thoroughly investigated and tracked. In addition, the independent CCRB should expand its authority to investigate biased policing complaints filed with that agency.”
Investigators studied 888 of the 2,495 bias complaints filed since 2014, the first year the NYPD began tracking this issue. More than 68% of all complaints involved allegations of racial bias, and black people filed nearly two-thirds of those.
In a 57-page report, the watchdog paints a picture of an NYPD that allows officers to make racist remarks with impunity and paper over thousands of allegations of bias.
“NYPD does not investigate as biased policing an officer’s use of offensive or derogatory language related to a complainant’s actual or perceived protected status, such as a racial slur, even though NYPD prohibits such conduct,” the report states.
“By contrast, if a complainant alleges that an officer used a racial slur and took additional police action (e.g., making an arrest), then NYPD would investigate the matter as biased policing,” it continues (parentheses in original).
The report catalogs the alleged racial, religious and ethnic slurs that the NYPD shrugged off. In one: “the complainant … alleged that one of the officers directed the slur ‘nigger’ at her husband and that the officer assumed the placard was invalid because her husband ‘look[ed] fine.’”
In another, an officer allegedly asked a store clerk: “Aren’t you supposed to be home today praying to your fucking God whoever he is, Allah?”
The NYPD also took no action on reports of officers boasting, “I put all Gypsies in jail,” taunting “go back to Africa,” and calling a Latino man a “Mexican piece of shit.”
Proposing 23 recommendations to tackle bias claims, the watchdog called to expand the role of the Civilian Complaint Review Board, which previously referred bias complaints to the NYPD’s Internal Affairs Bureau for investigation.
Instead of serving as an adjunct, the CCRB should spearhead investigations itself.
CCRB chair Fred Davie said in a statement that the watchdog’s recommendations “mirror the ongoing conversations” his agency has been having with both the NYPD and New York City’s Commission on Human Rights, but putting that plan into practice would take money.
“In order to take on the investigation, mediation, and prosecution of additional types of profiling allegations, the CCRB would need full funding for resources and specialized staff capable of analyzing the large volume of information,” Davie said. “Without this, the CCRB would be forced to unsubstantiate all but the most obvious allegations of profiling.”
In a phone interview, former CCRB spokesman Andrew Case said that he was not surprised by the scathing findings.
“If the NYPD is not going to investigate the complaint, it is imperative that the CCRB do it,” Case said.
Unlike other police departments, the NYPD does not make bias complaint information publicly available, and Case said that this is the first time he has seen this data released.
“NYPD should develop written materials to educate the public about what biased policing is and how members of the public can file biased policing complaints,” the report recommends. “This information should be conspicuously visible on NYPD’s website and in other locations where such information would be readily available to the public.”
The NYPD did not respond to an email request for comment, nor has it indicated whether it will follow the recommendations.