NYPD officials said Wednesday they will tell the family of Ramarley Graham whether the officer who fatally shot him gets fired, despite a state confidentiality law prohibiting the release of personnel files and disciplinary actions against cops.
Officer Richard Haste shot and killed Graham, 18, during a Bronx drug investigation in February 2012. Last week Haste appeared for a departmental trial before Deputy Commissioner for Trials Rosemarie Maldonado. NYPD attorneys presented evidence during the trial to show why Haste should be fired for using poor tactics. The officer faces no criminal liability.
Haste defense lawyer Stuart London argued that his client was the only officer subject to a departmental trial despite lapses by other ranking cops.
During interviews with investigators, Haste told them Graham disregarded his repeated orders to “show his hands.” Graham went to his waistband, Haste said, leading him to think the teenager was armed. No gun was found on Graham.
London told Maldonado that Haste had every reason to believe Graham was armed when the officer confronted him on the second floor of his Bronx home.
Maldonado will next recommend to Police Commissioner James O’Neill whether to fire Haste. O’Neill’s decision is expected within three months.
Because of the vagaries in a provision of the New York State Civil Rights Law — commonly known as “50a” for its particular section — NYPD officials have said personnel actions involving cops can’t be publicized.
Graham’s family members have reportedly said the rule stifled them from learning the exact nature of the charges against Haste, even though they were disclosed in the department trial.
Questioned by reporters Wednesday, Kevin S. Richardson, an NYPD deputy commissioner and department advocate, said Graham’s family will be kept in the loop when O’Neill decides to either fire Haste or give him a lesser penalty.
“We are in communication with the Ramarley Graham family and we have assured them that they will be informed,” Richardson said.
Asked what informing the family could mean for the confidentiality policy in future departmental trial results, Richardson said officials are trying to come up with a solution.
“The department is developing that process now, but as to the Haste case, we are dealing with it as an individual case,” Richardson said. “Going forward and working with the law department, we will figure out the parameters of how we can regularly disclose this information while 50a exists.”
Richardson said the NYPD won’t disclose Maldonado’s recommendations to O’Neill but would make the commissioner’s decision public.
For decades, the NYPD posted disciplinary actions taken against cops in department summaries. Those summaries were available to reporters. In the past year, officials have said that section 50a barred release of the summaries.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has taken the position that the release of the records is an NYPD issue. Mayor Bill de Blasio, who favors release, said the city is hamstrung by the state law. Civil rights advocates have sued the city over the disclosure issue and the cases are pending.