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NYPD, civilian review board agree to disciplinary matrix

The matrix lays out “presumptive penalties” for acts of misconduct or violations of the NYPD’s policy

By Joseph Ostapiuk
Staten Island Advance, N.Y.

NEW YORK, N.Y. — The NYPD and the Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB) signed an agreement Thursday pledging to follow the department’s new disciplinary matrix outlining the way officers will be punished for misconduct.

Police Commissioner Dermot Shea and CCRB Chairman Frederick Davie joined the mayor at a press conference to announce the signing, hailed by de Blasio as a “historic step forward for accountability, for trust, for transparency.”

The 57-page document, which took effect last month, took nearly two years to create and establishes penalties for a long list of potential infractions, including the use of deadly force and the application of a chokehold.

The matrix lays out “presumptive penalties” for acts of misconduct or violations of the NYPD’s policy that serve as a starting point for the analysis of a specific act. However, “aggravating” or “mitigating” factors could harshen or lessen the penalty, based on the circumstances of each case.

For example, the use of excessive deadly physical force that results in no physical injuries carries a presumptive penalty of termination; however, a mitigated penalty lessens to 30 suspension days, 30 penalty days and dismissal probation.

Shea said Thursday’s signing was one he could not be more proud of, adding that he views the matrix as a “living document” that will “bring greater transparency and oversight to the NYPD’s disciplinary process.”

“I view it as an important step in the ongoing journey — and the keyword is ongoing here — to build strong public trust,” said Shea.

Davie said the matrix and the newly-signed memorandum of understanding (MOU) shift the way our city deals with police accountability and police discipline. The NYPD’s application of discipline, particularly the discipline recommended by the CCRB, has long been inconsistent and inconsequential,” said Davie.

He said the establishment of the NYPD’s matrix, which is unprecedented, is critical to turning the page on the NYPD’s downgrading or reversing of the CCRB’s disciplinary recommendations, plea agreements, and guilty verdicts, and he said the MOU makes that “extremely clear and explicit.”

The agreement comes a week after de Blasio announced new reforms that expanded the CCRB’s role by enabling the agency to launch investigations without a specific complaint, guaranteeing the CCRB timely access to body-worn camera footage and opening the door for the oversight group to audit the NYPD’s internal disciplinary measures.

“This is going to be the strongest the CCRB has ever been in its history,” he said Thursday.

De Blasio said the disciplinary matrix could serve as a “model” for law enforcement across the country to “build a deeper relationship between police and the community.”

PBA President Patrick Lynch blasted the agreement as a “political prop” Thursday.

“Police officers want to see fairness and consistency in the NYPD disciplinary process,” said Lynch. “Mayor de Blasio’s use of the NYPD disciplinary matrix as a political prop is the direct opposite of that goal. Rather than allowing police discipline to follow the facts, he is chasing the news cycle and, once again, making it harder for cops to do our job.”

Critics have called the matrix “long overdue,” but also had significant concerns over the true power of the document to alter the culture of discipline within the department.

“At the end of the day, this is just a policy on paper, and it does nothing to address the core issue, which is that the police commissioner has complete, total control over the process,” Michael Sisitzky, senior policy counsel to the New York Civil Liberties Union, previously told the Advance/

However, Davie said the disciplinary matrix is the best step the city can take and he looks forward to analyzing its impact on the CCRB recommendations in NYPD discipline.

“Clearly, the key to increasing trust and improving the relationship between the Police Department and the community is for people to really believe that they have a civilian oversight agency that can address consistently and with consequence the issues of police misconduct,” Davie said. “And the steps that this mayor has taken, the work that we’re doing with the police commissioner, with the input, again, of the City Council, advocates, and others, really help to advance that trust in the Civilian Complaint Review Board and its work.”

(c)2021 Staten Island Advance, N.Y.