A report initiated by the NYPD commissioner is poised to make some significant changes to the way the department operates.
Most notably, the disciplinary histories and personnel records of NYPD officers, previously hidden from the public and impervious to even Freedom of Information Law requests under state legislation known as 50-a, could soon become the first site of a new realm of transparency.
In a statement on Friday, NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill said the department will accept the findings of a panel hired to recommend reforms. O’Neill said he would roll out a series of modest changes to the agency’s disciplinary system over the next two months after the panel found “almost a complete lack of transparency and public accountability.”
The three-member panel that recommended the reforms was appointed by O’Neill.
“I offer my deep and sincere thanks to members of the panel, and their staffs, who have donated their valuable time, skills and efforts to perform a vital public service to New York City,” NYPD Commissioner James P. O’Neill said. “A fair, clear and consistent discipline system is essential to the police and public alike, and the twin virtues of transparency and accountability are essential to building mutual trust and respect between cops and the communities they serve.”
On Thursday, the city released a report on alleged NYPD misconduct matters and civil lawsuits from 2014 to 2018. The Legal Aid Society analyzed the information and found that there were 10,656 lawsuits brought against NYPD in that four-year period. The number of lawsuits decreased from 3,084 in 2014 to 1,586 last year.
The city has also paid hundreds of millions of dollars in settlements, including $57,246,531.58 last year alone. In 2017, the city paid out $142,677,568.24.
“This reporting sheds some more light on the rampant problem of misconduct at the New York City Police Department,” said Tina Luongo, attorney-in-charge of the Criminal Defense Practice at Legal Aid.
“In 2018 alone, New Yorkers brought hundreds of lawsuits against the Department over excessive use of force, assault, wrongful arrest and imprisonment, and malicious prosecution. We hope that this reporting helps to further the conversation to revamp the NYPD’s current disciplinary process, so that officers who commit these heinous crimes and who betray the public’s trust will receive more than just a slap on the wrist.”
NYPD will improve its public reporting and bring it up to speed with other agencies, O’Neill said.
Other recommendations made by the independent panel will be implemented over a longer period of time. NYPD said it will appoint a citizen liaison, take measures to expedite disciplinary adjudications, upgrade its case management system and adopt presumptive penalties in domestic violence cases.