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Police Misconduct Complaints Decreased in 2010


The Civilian Complaint Review Board released its 2010 report on civilian complaints.

The number of civilian complaints made against the New York City Police Department decreased by 15% between 2009 and 2010, with 7,660 complaints in 2009 and 6,476 in 2010.

There are four types of complaints civilians can make against a police officer—force, abuse of authority, discourtesy, and offensive language. One-third of the complaints received fell under abuse of authority, pertaining to the alleged misuse of NYPD's  “stop and frisk” procedure.

For 2010 the number of complaints for misuse of stop and frisk decreased despite NYPD reports that the practice has increased. For every 303 stops, only one person filed a complaint. The NYPD reported stop and frisks at an all time high for 2010, with over 600,000 documented. 

The Civilian Complaint Review Board was established in 1993 as an independent city agency to investigate and mediate complaints of police misconduct. The current board has thirteen members—five designated by the City Council, three by the Police Commissioner, and five by the New York City Mayor.

Chris Dunn with the New York Civil Liberties Union said he does not think police misconduct can be measured on a year-by-year basis. He said findings from 2001 to 2010 show an increase in complaints of misconduct.

“During the Bloomberg Administration there’s been a large increase in the number of complaints -- there’s been a large increase in cases substantiated, and there’s been a large decrease in the discipline being imposed on police officers. That adds up to a troubling picture,” Dunn said.

But for 2010, CCRB reported an increase in disciplinary action for substantiated complaints from 61% in 2009 to 89% in 2010. They also reported a decrease in the average number of days to close an investigation from 349 days in 2009 to 299 days in 2010.

Meera Joshi, the First Deputy Executive Director of the CCRB said there has been an increase in the quality of investigations by the Board.  Joshi also said all complaints are filed under an officer’s permanent record, even if there is not enough evidence to find the officer guilty.  

“The more you come to us and tell us what problems you’re having with the police,” said Joshi, “the more we can investigate it and the more we can investigate those instances, and the better police-community relations can be.”

Since 2008, CCRB reports that discipline rates for police officers have increased.

“The police Department is not likely to discipline officers based on poor investigations,” said Joshi.  “So the fact that the number has continuously risen over the past three years, is an indicator of better quality investigations.”

But Chris Dunn with the NYCLU disagreed, and said the CCRB is “broken” and needs to change if it wants to be an effective tool in fighting police misconduct.

“They do a poor job of investigating many complaints,” said Dunn, “and even in those cases where they find a police officer engages in misconduct, the police department has complete control over discipline, and most of the times the department does not impose discipline on police officers.”

Dunne suggested the Board become more engaged in communities by opening offices in each borough, as well as requiring someone other than the Police Commissioner to oversee disciplinary action.

But under New York state law, only the Police Commissioner can discipline officers found guilty and the CCRB’s charter only allows them to investigate complaints.