Richard Emery, civil liberties lawyer, named to NYC police review board

Richard Emery, one of four personnel appointments announced

Richard Emery, one of four personnel appointments announced by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, right, speaks at a news conference at City Hall on July 17, 2014 in Manhattan. (Credit: Getty Images / Christopher Gregory)

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A veteran civil-liberties litigator who Mayor Bill de Blasio appointed Thursday to chair the city's Civilian Complaint Review Board, which investigates police officer misconduct, vowed to refocus the agency and beef up its power.

Richard Emery -- who has sued the city numerous times, including over police brutality, racial profiling and improper strip searches of nonviolent arrestees -- said the agency has "never . . . fulfilled its promise."

In his private law practice, Emery said, he has rarely advised clients claiming abuse to go to the agency.

"We don't believe that they will get speedy, fair justice," Emery said. He said the agency is too often unfair to cops too, failing to adjudicate allegations speedily.

The 13-member board, which dates to 1993, has subpoena power and can make formal findings, but has no ability to actually discipline an officer even when allegations of misconduct are substantiated. Only the police commissioner can punish a cop.

A more muscular CCRB comes as the NYPD finds itself under new scrutiny, including an independent inspector general mandated by the City Council and judge-appointed monitor overseeing the controversial stop-and-frisk practice.

Emery said "it's much too early to say" exactly what changes he'd make, but he said as vacancies on the board come up, he hopes "the complexion of the board will change in certain ways."

Said de Blasio: "This is the first time we're actually going to get to see a CCRB function properly, and I think it's going to be a breath of fresh air."

Emery, 68, attended Columbia Law School and served as a staff attorney at the New York Civil Liberties Union from 1977 to 1987. He also won a landmark 1989 case that reshaped city government by abolishing the city's powerful Board of Estimate for violating the one-person, one-vote principle.

He is a longtime close friend of NYPD Commissioner William Bratton.

As CCRB chairman, he'll earn $346 per six hours of work.

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