The Civilian Complaint Review Board said Tuesday they found no evidence to substantiate 90 percent of complaints against NYPD officers for improper home entries and searches but in other cases, cops either didn’t understand the law or used old warrants to justify a search.
In a 106-page report entitled, “Crossing The Threshold”, the board found particular problems with the way some officers justified warrantless entries into homes by claiming they had consent of a resident or that “exigent and emergency circumstances” allowed entry to a location.
The civilian agency examined 1,762 complaints of unjustified home entries by NYPD officers between January 2010 and October 2015 and found that in 180 cases, or 10 percent, cops broke with proper procedure when they entered and searched homes, the report said.
About 33 percent of the unsubstantiated complaints, compiled by the agency — authorized to investigate allegations of police brutality and other misconduct — were proper entries either because officers had valid warrants or other court orders, according to the report.
For cases where the review board substantiated a complaint, it found that in some cases, officers misunderstood or misapplied the law on the use of warrants or warrantless entries. A majority of the cops with substantiated improper entry complaints had less than 10 years on the force, agency data showed.
“Police legitimacy is damaged and community relations suffer when officers act unlawfully, especially when they cross the threshold of a person’s home,” said Mina Malik, executive director of the review board, in a statement.
The agency recommended body cameras for NYPD cops during home entry situations to help sort out complaints of wrongdoing, adding that the department should enforce the current policy of using consent-search forms when officers request entry into a location.
NYPD spokesman Stephen Davis said the department would review the report and respond to the findings and recommendations. Davis noted that the NYPD executed over 15,000 search warrants from 2010 to 2015 without problems. He said the number of cases where officers entered a location without a warrant because of an emergency or “exigent” circumstances couldn’t be determined.
Davis also said the NYPD and the review board disagreed on the use of the exigent-circumstances as justification for entry into a home for a misdemeanor offense. The department considers entry justified for that level of a crime, he said.
In a footnote to its report, the review board acknowledged a difference with the NYPD, contending the U.S. Supreme Court has held a police officer can’t rush into a premises in “hot pursuit” of a suspect for a “minor” offense.