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NYPD says increased enforcement, arrests caused 51% spike in misconduct complaints

The NYPD and some legal experts say that the number of complaints pale in comparison “to the millions of interactions officers have with the public on an annual basis”


“This only further underscores the need for greater police transparency and accountability in our city,” Desamours said.

Howard Simmons

By Rocco Parascandola
New York Daily News

NEW YORK — Police misconduct complaints jumped 51% in 2023 to their highest level since 2012 — a year-over-year increase the New York Police Department attributes to its stepped-up efforts to enforce the law.

The new data are contained in a report by the Civilian Complaint Review Board, which handles allegations of police officer misconduct.

During 2023, citizens filed 5,604 complaints with the CCRB, a 51% increase from the 3,700 complaints the board handled in 2022.

The increase was spread nearly evenly across four broad categories — misuse of force, abuse of authority, discourtesy and offensive language. Although the number of allegations in each category increased in 2023, as a proportion of the total they varied by no more than 2% from 2022.

The number of complaints was the highest since 5,742 complaints were filed with the CCRB in 2012, the second-to-last year Michael Bloomberg was the city’s mayor.

Complaints declined in Bloomberg’s last year and through the administration of Mayor Bill de Blasio — and have increased since Mayor Eric Adams took office in January 2022.

Police say the spike in misconduct complaints is no surprise given that the department made 20% more arrests and issued 84% more summonses in 2023 as it pressed to drive down gun violence and deal with quality-of-life complaints.

“Increases in community complaints are expected to result in increases in police-public interactions and logically, increase in enforcement,” the NYPD said in a statement. “The amount of CCRB complaints pales in comparison to the millions of interactions officers have with the public on an annual basis.”

But Christopher Dunn, legal director for the New York Civil Liberties Union, doesn’t buy that argument — particularly given how much complaints jumped last year.

“Complaints don’t come because the police enforce the law,” Dunn said. “They come when the police abuse their authority and mistreat people.”

Dunn also said another CCRB statistic is also troubling.

Over the past two years the percentage of misconduct cases in which the police commissioner imposed less harsh penalties than what the CCRB proposed dropped from 71% in 2021 to 55% in 2023.

Eugene O’Donnell, an adjunct professor at the CUNY’s John Jay College of Criminal Justice, doesn’t doubt there are instances where cops commit serious misconduct and should be punished more harshly.

But he noted the CCRB data that accusations of excessive force are far exceeded by allegations of abuse of authority, use of offensive language or discourtesy — which might be as minor as not providing a business card to those who ask under terms of the city Right to Know Act.

The CCRB counted 2,588 misuse of force allegations in 2023 — far fewer than the 4,370 abuse-of-authority allegations it received.

Add last year’s abuse-of-authority allegations with the 2,465 discourtesy complaints and 373 offensive-language complaints, and you come up with a total of 6,208 CCRB complaints that did not involve abuse of force. Those nonviolent offenses make up 71% of the cases CCRB took in during 2023.

“The universe of cops that get looked at is really a small number,” O’Donnell said. “This is not the brutal police department a lot of people have made it out to be.”

Arva Rice, CCRB’s interim chairwoman, said the agency needs to further analyze its data before determining what’s behind the rise in complaints.

But Rendy Desamours, spokesman for City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams, said the rise is “alarming and trending in the wrong direction.”

“This only further underscores the need for greater police transparency and accountability in our city,” Desamours said.


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