Thanks to the increase in smartphones, more and more NYPD misconduct is being caught on camera than ever before, and more allegations of excessive force are being substantiated as well.
More and more NYPD misconduct is being caught on video — making substantiating complaints a cakewalk for the city’s Civilian Complaint Review Board, the agency’s head said Monday.
“Video is a fundamental revolution when it comes to the accountability of police officers,” CCRB Chairman Richard Emery told the Daily News. “It’s demystifying the whole investigative process. No longer is the lion’s share of the cases ‘he said, she said’ where additional corroboration is almost always required and substantiation is quite difficult.”
According to the CCRB’s semiannual report, released Tuesday, 45% of excessive force allegations made to the agency were substantiated with video evidence in the first six months of the year.
In all of 2014, only 34% of excessive force complaints were proven with video evidence, the report notes.
Surveillance and cellphone videos have also helped substantiate 21% of the overall complaints filed with the CCRB so far this year — the highest rate since the agency’s creation in 1993.
Video has been such a boon to the CCRB that a special team has been created to track down and acquire video once a complaint is made. Every investigator also has a mandate to find video if possible, Emery said.
Yet seasoned cop watchdogs say the CCRB is also using the videos to recommend lesser penalties for cops — a Catch-22 that some find distasteful.
If a video shows a civilian mouthing off to a cop before the misconduct is made, the officer will likely get a reduced punishment — which could mean instructions on how to act in those situations rather than losing vacation days, said Jose LaSalle, a member of the CopWatch Patrol Unit, a police monitoring group in the South Bronx.
“Out of everything that is on the video, the only thing that should matter is what the complaint is about, be it force, discourtesy, whatever,” LaSalle said.
An officer’s misconduct has never been excused because the video shows people berating the cop, Emery said.
“There has never been a balancing of the behavior on the video that excuses misconduct,” the CCRB chairman explained. “But if the discourtesy is provoked, that may affect the penalty phase.”