EDITORIAL: Information opens doors to reform

Some police officers turn their backs as Mayor Bill de Blasio speaks during the funeral of New York Police Department Officer Wenjian Liu, Sunday, Jan. 4, 2015, in the Brooklyn borough of New York.
PHOTOGRAPHER:
Some police officers turn their backs as Mayor Bill de Blasio speaks during the funeral of New York Police Department Officer Wenjian Liu, Sunday, Jan. 4, 2015, in the Brooklyn borough of New York.

This is the kind of information that, when released to the public, can lead to real change.

By the same token, it’s the kind of information, when kept from the public, leads to a continuation of the status quo.

For victims, particularly those targeted more by race than others, it could finally lead to fairness and eventually, justice.

The New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) on Monday updated its database of misconduct reports for the New York City police department (NYPD).

The report contains more than 279,600 misconduct complaints from prior to 1985 right up through last month.

What they reveal is a continued pattern of abuse and misconduct by White officers toward minorities, and they demonstrate how little disciplinary action is taken against officers accused of misconduct.

According to the latest report, of all the complaints naming an NYPD officer in the past 20 years (when police began self-reporting race), about 61% were about White officers and about 36% were about Black of Latino officers.

Of the recipients of the alleged abuse since 2000, just 14% if the complainants were White, while 81% were Black or Latino.

The 279,644 reports were brought against 48,757 different officers, meaning multiple complaints were brought against the same officer. Nearly 20,000 officers were named in at least five complaints.

If that’s all not signs enough of a problem, there’s this: During the time of the survey, only 8,419 complaints led to any penalty against the accused officer and only 12 officers were fired or dismissed.

It’s true, many of the complaints may not have risen to the level in which the officer should have been disciplined or fired. And certainly, NYPD review boards did not give favorable treatment to all of its accused officers.

But certainly, these numbers show a disturbing number of accusations brought against officers and an even more disturbing percentage of minorities targeted.

Combine that with the comparatively low level of disciplinary action and the even lower number of cases in which accused officers lost their jobs, and one can make a strong case for further inquiry.

And remember, this is only one department, and only a limited period of time.

These problems may have been going on for many decades in some places.

The only way anyone would even know to look deeply into this issue is through the public release of these records, information that has been kept largely under wraps for decades by police.

Had this information been available years ago, society might be further along with police reforms, and we might not be seeing some of the problems we see today.

Continued exposure will lead to further reform, less abuse of citizens, and a fairer, less discriminatory system of justice.

Categories: Editorial, Opinion

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