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NYPD Opens Files on Disciplinary Actions Against Cops; Lack of Transparency Cited

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In June 2018, NYPD Commissioner James P. O'Neill appointed a three-person panel of highly-respected experts to perform an autonomous, exhaustive review of the NYPD discipline system, and make recommended changes to improve it. Photo Credit: Shutterstock

The NYPD says it will peel back some of the layers that some charge have been hiding the process of disciplining police officers.

Last week, police commissioner James P. O’Neill, said he would begin opening the files on departmental trials, and spoke out positively about legislation aimed at making more disciplinary records public.

The commissioner’s statement followed an independent commission report that found “almost a complete lack of transparency and public accountability” in the department’s system for investigating misconduct, according to the New York Times.

O’Neill said that the NYPD is accepting the Independent Panel’s complete list of recommendations to improve the NYPD disciplinary system. The Commissioner convened the Independent Panel earlier this year and today outlined the plan to carry out those changes.

He also announced an NYPD Implementation Panel will now administer the operational, legal and budgetary plan to enact all recommendations. Some of the recommendations can be implemented in the short-term, over the next 30-60 days. Another set of changes will require additional time to take effect. The NYPD will also ask an outside entity to perform an external audit of the overall implementation process.

“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,” O’Neill said in a statement. “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.”

According to the NYPD, the following recommendations will be put into place in the short-term, within the next 30-60 days:

The Department should support amendments to 50-a to increase transparency and enhance accountability

The NYPD must guard against unwarranted expansion of the scope of 50-a

The NYPD should also enhance its public reporting in line with that of other agencies

The NYPD should publish trial room calendars

The Police Commissioner should enhance the documentation of variances from disciplinary recommendations.

O’Neill named First Deputy Commissioner Benjamin B. Tucker as the chair of the NYPD Implementation Panel. As part of their work, the Implementation Panel will identify an external organization to audit the NYPD’s reformed disciplinary system.

In June 2018, Commissioner O’Neill appointed a three-person panel of highly-respected experts to perform an autonomous, exhaustive review of the NYPD discipline system, and make recommended changes to improve it. The panel had the full cooperation of the Department during their seven-month review — including unfettered access to all requested documents, information and interviews, and complete independence to explore any and all elements of the disciplinary system. On Friday, January 25, 2019 the panel shared the final report with the NYPD, and on February 1st released it publicly.

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