Mayor Bill de Blasio unveiled on Monday a draft of a discipline matrix for NYPD members as part of police reform.   Credit: NY Mayor's Office

The NYPD released guidelines Monday to govern how officers found guilty of misconduct would be penalized as part of the latest effort to increase transparency in policing, officials said.

Known as a disciplinary “matrix,” the document was inspired in part by the sentencing guidelines used by federal judges and lists “presumptive penalties” for offenses and violations of police rules ranging from failure to file a required report to drunken driving and excessive use of force.

Sample of proposed penalties

MisconductPenalty
Deadly physical force resulting in serious injury/deathTermination
Intentional use of chokeholdTermination
Chokehold resulting in deathTermination
Unauthorized use of physical force resulting in injury10 penalty days
Failure to obtain medical aid in case of apparent physical injury20 penalty days
Offensive language20 penalty days
Discourtesy5 penalty days

The new guidelines would give a possible penalty that the police commissioner could ultimately impose in a case, with reasons for potentially stronger or lesser severity. Offenses cover not only police interaction with the public but also domestic violence involving an officer, violations of equal employment rules and abuse of authority and drunken driving.

At news conference with Mayor Bill de Blasio, NYPD commissioner Dermot Shea said the guidelines were disclosed Monday on the department website and the public would have 30 days to submit comments. As a result of the comments, the department might change some of the guidelines, which would become final on January 15, 2021, Shea said.

“It's something we truly believe in, in terms of knowing who you work for — and we work for the public — and asking them for their comments,” Shea said.

The presumed penalties range anywhere from five days lost vacation or suspension for discourtesy to dismissal for use of the banned chokehold. The penalty charts also give ranges of minor discipline — usually lost leave time — or command discipline meted out by a commander for things like reporting late for work or losing a police shield.

According to Assistant Chief Matthew Pontillo, the impetus for the guidelines was among the findings of a blue-ribbon panel which in 2019 released a report on the NYPD disciplinary system. The panel, chaired by former federal prosecutor Mary Jo White, determined that the process was “robust and fair” but that transparency into the process was lacking and with adjudications sometimes taking too long. One of the suggestions of the panel was that the NYPD adopt a nonbinding matrix, Pontillo said.

He noted that the guidelines were being prepared well before the City Council last June passed a bill that required a nonbinding penalty matrix.

The Police Benevolent Association came out strongly against the guidelines. In a statement, PBA president Patrick Lynch said the proposals had nothing to do with fairness.

“It’s an avenue for the City Council’s policing ‘experts’ — the ones who brought chaos back to NYC — to manipulate NYPD discipline to further their radical political goals,” said Lynch.

Michael Sisitzky, lead policy council for the New York Civil Liberties Union, expressed guarded optimism, saying in a statement that the guidelines were important to have in place but that only time would tell how well the department enforced them.

“This was a big one, involving a lot of work, a lot of people,” said Pontillo, adding that officials reviewed over five years' worth of disciplinary rulings to come up with baseline penalties.

Staff writer Michael O’Keefe contributed to this story

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