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NYPD’s top cop stepped aside and ignored hundreds of CCRB recommendations, more times than first reported: study

Police Commissioner Keechant Sewell has struck down or completely ignored more than 400 penalties recommended by the Civilian Complaints Review Board against police officers accused of misconduct, hundreds more than initially thought, a study published Thursday shows.

As 2022 drew to a close, Sewell said in a message to police officers that he rejected CCRB disciplinary recommendations more often than other recent police commissioners, and that some of the police watchdog group’s decisions they were “grossly unfair” to the officers.

At the time, he said he had overturned “more than 70” recommendations from the city’s police watchdog group.

But a Legal Aid Society study released Thursday shows that Sewell had dismissed or changed CCRB disciplinary recommendations on at least 425 misconduct allegations.

Sewell dismissed 346 of the cases simply by letting the statute of limitations expire before making a written decision on the CCRB’s recommendation, even though he had “weeks or even months” to make up his mind. the study shows.

It was not immediately disclosed how many disciplinary recommendations Sewell reviewed last year.

For those where Sewell rejects the CCRB’s findings, the explanation “often reveals a selective and possibly biased version of the facts,” the Legal Aid Society said.

Under the agreement between the two agencies, the CCRB can prosecute NYPD disciplinary cases, but the police commissioner can reduce, increase or leave unchanged any discipline he recommends.

In his December message to his officers, Sewell said the CCRB does not review an officer’s case file before making a recommendation.

“When making disciplinary decisions, I look at the entire record,” he said. “We should not punish good faith mistakes and small mistakes made under stressful conditions.”

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The CCRB findings that Sewell disputed included an incident in which a 240-pound police officer was accused of lifting a “small and skinny” 14-year-old boy in the air “so that his head (was) above him.” and then hit the boy. , injuring the teen’s back and elbow without issuing a warning first.

While the officer admitted to his actions in CCRB interviews, Sewell disputed the CCRB’s decision that the takedown amounted to excessive force, instead calling the police actions “controlled.” She did not sanction the policeman.

A district police officer in uniform showing his patch.

Sewell also reduced the CCRB’s recommended penalties for several cases in which police officers failed to provide potential whistleblowers with business cards, which they are required to do, and dismissed a case in which a police officer working with a California Administration employee City Children’s Services was accused of improperly searching an apartment that the ACS worker believed housed an at-risk child. The CCRB wanted to penalize the officer with 10 days of vacation.

In a letter sent to Mayor Adams, the Legal Aid Society said Sewell’s actions were a “systematic failure to impose proper discipline on officers who committed misconduct” and creates “resentment among members of the communities he serves.” the NYPD, who have long called for NYPD leadership to take discipline seriously.”

“The frequency of these outings and their biased reasoning suggest a disregard for the primary goals of the New York City Council-mandated NYPD Disciplinary Matrix, i.e., transparent, fair, and predictable accountability for officer misconduct. ”, Maggie Hadley, Legal Counsel. in the Special Litigation Unit of the Criminal Defense Practice at The Legal Aid Society, she said. “This further erodes public confidence in the NYPD’s disciplinary system, and we demand immediate action by the City Council to ensure that Commissioner Sewell stops abusing her discretion to undermine discipline.”

The Legal Aid Society wants Mayor Adams to direct Sewell to issue new guidelines based on how she exercises her discretion “that will ensure that the factual findings produced by the CCRB investigation are not challenged, that conclusions are reached in accordance with the terms of the Matrix, that progressive imposed discipline is applied, and immediate measures are taken to avoid prescription problems”.

An email to the NYPD and CCRB requesting comment on the study was not immediately returned.

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