By Jonathan Sperling
The New York Police Department will accept a panel’s findings and roll out a series of modest changes to the agency’s disciplinary system — including some 50-a reforms — over the next two months, NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill said in a statement Friday.
The NYPD pushed back against what it called “unwarranted expansion” of 50-a, however. Code 50-a shields officers’ disciplinary histories and personnel records used to evaluate performance from public review. The documents remain confidential and cannot be obtained through Freedom of Information Law requests.
The three-member panel that recommended the reforms was appointed by O’Neill.
“I offer my deep and sincere thanks to members of the panel, and their staffs, who have donated their valuable time, skills and efforts to perform a vital public service to New York City,” NYPD Commissioner James P. O’Neill said. “A fair, clear and consistent discipline system is essential to the police and public alike, and the twin virtues of transparency and accountability are essential to building mutual trust and respect between cops and the communities they serve.”
On Thursday, the city released a report on alleged NYPD misconduct matters and civil lawsuits commenced between 2014 and 2018. The Legal Aid Society analyzed the information and found that there were 10,656 lawsuits brought against the NYPD from 2014 to 2018, the number of lawsuits decreased from 3,084 in 2014 to 1,586 last year.
The city has also paid hundreds of millions of dollars in settlements, including $57,246,531.58 last year. In 2017, the city paid out $142,677,568.24.
“This reporting sheds some more light on the rampant problem of misconduct at the New York City Police Department,” said Tina Luongo, attorney-in-charge of the Criminal Defense Practice at The Legal Aid Society. “In 2018 alone, New Yorkers brought hundreds of lawsuits against the Department over excessive use of force, assault, wrongful arrest and imprisonment, and malicious prosecution. We hope that this reporting helps to further the conversation to revamp the NYPD’s current disciplinary process, so that officers who commit these heinous crimes and who betray the public’s trust will receive more than just a slap on the wrist.”
The NYPD will improve its public reporting and bring it up to speed with other agencies, O’Neill said.
Other recommendations made by the independent panel will be implemented over a longer period of time. The NYPD said it will appoint a citizen liaison, take measures to expedite disciplinary adjudications, upgrade its case management system and adopt presumptive penalties in domestic violence cases.
Several Queens officers found themselves on the wrong side of the law last week.
Former NYPD Officer Joseph Wong is currently facing a year on Rikers Island after allegedly punching his mother in the face during a domestic violence incident in Jackson Heights.
NYPD officer Jose Linares-Bilbao was arrested Thursday for his alleged role in a group attack outside a Jackson Heights gay bar.