A reliance on paper and a mishmash of practices stymie complaints about minor-level NYPD misconduct, according to findings released Tuesday by the police force’s watchdog.
The 17-page report by the Office of Inspector General for the NYPD — “Addressing Inefficiencies in NYPD’s Handling of Complaints: An Investigation of the ‘Outside Guidelines’ Complaint Process” — questions the efficacy of how the department polices itself.
“Outside guidelines” misbehavior — so named because the acts break the NYPD’s rules but don’t constitute the most serious allegations, like corruption — include disputed arrests, contested summonses or a cop’s refusal to supply a civilian with a name or badge number.
Such “OG” cases, as they’re called, made up about 26,133 complaints registered by the NYPD’s internal-affairs bureau in 2015 — about half of the number the bureau received overall that year.
“OIG-NYPD has received complaints and fielded inquiries from members of the public expressing frustration that NYPD cannot provide an update on the status of their complaints against police officers,” the report stated. “This is a concern because it impedes NYPD’s accountability to the public, handicaps its ability to respond to public needs and concerns, and has the potential to erode public confidence that NYPD is investigating and addressing complaints in an efficient and effective manner.”
Among the findings:
- The system used in probes is outdated and lacks the ability to track cases and conduct meaningful analysis;
- Supervising investigators still use paper forms, which must be mailed to different personnel, risking the chance for lost or misplaced paperwork;
- While dispositions are expected within 90 days, deadlines differ in various places in the department.
In an emailed statement attributed to department spokesman J. Peter Donald, the NYPD said it had “identified the need for an improved complaint tracking system even before the DOI” probe began; the new system would be in place by the end of 2017.
Philip K. Eure is the NYPD’s first inspector general, a post created in 2013 amid a citywide furor over police stop-question-and-frisk tactics. Since he was appointed in 2014, the inspector general has issued reports criticizing how the NYPD uses chokeholds, polices mentally ill people, surveils political protesters, and has questioned the efficacy of the NYPD’s broken-windows policing strategy — the cornerstone of the NYPD’s philosophy going back decades.
In the latest report, Eure recommended uniform timelines for all cases, a web-based protocol for tracking and disclosing the status of complainants and the addition of clearer due dates.