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Twenty NYPD cops have substantiated misconduct accusations against them for their actions at protests following the death of George Floyd last year, the chair of the Civilian Complain Review Board said at a City Council hearing Tuesday.
The CCRB recommended departmental charges in two cases and commanded discipline — the loss of up to 10 vacation days — in 12 other cases, agency chair Fred Davie testified.
The watchdog group upheld complaints against 20 officers – alleging everything from using or threatening excessive force, giving misleading statements to investigators, making offensive gestures to failing to identify themselves by name or shield number.
Twenty-three other cases were closed without punishment. Among those, five cops were exonerated and six others were unsubstantiated. The other 12 include nine where the officers could not be identified, two in which the allegations were unfounded and one for an unspecified reason.
The 185 open cases include 75 in which the accused officers have not yet been interviewed, Davie said.
Davie pinned the delays on the challenges of working remotely — and on the NYPD. In some cases, the department couldn’t quickly identify which officers were assigned where, he said. Other cops covered their shields, wore equipment marked with the names of other officers, didn’t turn on their body cameras properly or didn’t fully or correctly fill out their paperwork.
The NYPD has been widely criticized for how it handled the dozens of demonstrations.
State Attorney General Letitia James has sued the department, accusing its leadership over its “excessive, brutal and unlawful” handling of the protests. The city’s Department of Investigation reported that police brass were unprepared and that cops escalated tensions by using excessive force. Nearly 450 demonstrators are suing the NYPD.
Police Commissioner Dermot Shea has agreed with some of the criticism and noted that a number of officers are being investigated by Internal Affairs. But he said police overwhelmingly conducted themselves professionally and that several hundred cops were hurt, many attacked, and dozens of police cars were vandalized.
The new NYPD budget was the subject of the City Council hearing, but it was dominated by talk about various reforms being proposed as part of a mandate from Albany.
Police Commissioner Dermot Shea sharply disagreed with a contention that cops staged a slowdown last summer in the wake of the calls to defund the police.
“Are we going to admit that today?” said Adrienne Adams (D-Queens), who chairs the Public Safety Committee. “To me, it was very obvious. It was spoken of and mentioned of in the ranks...”
Adams also said that she heard from constituents that any complaints made to cops were often met with a sharp, “Call your council member.”
Shea said the opposite was true, that even with up to 20% of the rank and file out sick with COVID-19, and the department’s resources further taxed by protest assignments, police never let up.
“The cops never, never, never stopped working,” he said. “They were shot at during that time period. They were making gun arrests during that period. There was no slowdown.”
Arrests did drop dramatically last year but police have said there were other factors — more people wearing masks, making them less recognizable on surveillance video; less people on the street and sharp drops in some crimes.
Shea said the proposed budget of $5.4 billion that would take effect on July 1, includes $417 million operating budget reduction. An academy class was cancelled, he said, and overtime is cut by nearly $300 million.
But City Councilman Brad Lander (D-Brooklyn.) said the $1 billion cut touted by City Hall is more like $240 million, noting that police have already surpassed their overtime budget and that the anticipated savings by moving 5,5000 school safety agents out of the NYPD and to the Department of Education won’t be realized until at least next year.
“We can’t move forward with transparency,” Lander said, “if we aren’t honest about what’s in the budget and what is really happening”