The 120-page report, prepared in response to the July death of arrestee Eric Garner on Staten Island and obtained exclusively by The Post, amps up the board’s Mayor de Blasio-sanctioned transformation into an agency that will aggressively investigate cops.
Pitched as a “Vision Zero action plan,” a reference to the mayor’s Vision Zero plan to reduce traffic injuries and deaths, the report blasts the leaders of New York’s Finest for failing to discipline cops in all but the worst cases.
The report, to be released this week, also chastises the department for softening the definition of a chokehold in order to let bad cops off the hook. But for all its alarm over how “chokeholds persist and appear to be increasing,” the report’s own statistics tell a different story.
While complaints are on the rise slightly, the board has substantiated only 10 chokehold cases out of 1,128 allegations brought to the agency in the past 5¹/₂ years.
“From 2009 through June 2014,” the report reads, “the CCRB substantiated a total of 10 chokehold allegations: three in 2009; two in 2010; one in 2011; one in 2012; two in 2013; and one from January through June 2014.”
In other words, the board’s own investigations were able to prove, on average, less than 2 percent of chokehold complaints — something the report blames on inconclusive evidence and its own previously lax investigators.
The report urges better training for all cops, better tracking and disciplining of “problem” cops, and a requirement that NYPD disciplinary judges stick to the Patrol Guide definition of a chokehold as any pressure to the neck regardless of whether breathing is obstructed.
Among the report’s findings:
- “Half the officers in chokehold complaints had a history of six or more CCRB complaints, with 25 percent of officers having a history of 10 or more complaints,” the report states.
- The CCRB hopes to partner with NYPD in enacting tighter policies, including an “early warning system” and “new training protocols,” in line with Emery’s recent proposal for a “Cop-Stat” abuse-tracking system.
- Three precincts had no chokehold complaints since 2009: Central Park, the 66th in the Borough Park section of Brooklyn, and the recently created 121st Precinct in Staten Island.
- East New York, Brooklyn’s 75th Precinct logged the most chokehold complaints in that period — 65 — followed by the 73rd Precinct in Ocean Hill and Brownsville, Brooklyn, which logged 52.
- Newer cops are more likely to be accused of chokeholds.
The report also criticizes judges in the NYPD’s internal disciplinary judges for being soft on chokehold cases. Of the 10 CCRB-substantiated chokehold cases since 2009, the worst discipline meted out so far was a single instance of the loss of 10 days vacation in the case of a cop who squeezed a complainant’s neck with both hands.
The report additionally slams previous CCRB investigators for under-categorizing 156 chokehold allegations as mere “use of physical force, and argues strongly for consensus on a strict definition of a chokehold as any application of force to the neck, as stated in the NYPD Patrol Guide, regardless of whether breathing is impeded.
For 20 years, the NYPD Patrol Guide has prohibited police from applying any pressure to the neck that “may” inhibit breathing, the report notes. That definition has “mutated” in the eyes of both the NYPD and some previous CCRB investigators to include only those instances where breathing was actually interfered with, the report complains.
“What this report reveals is that this prohibition, as crystal clear as it is, has been degraded over the course of the last decade,” the report says.
PBA President Patrick Lynch was not impressed when shown a copy of the report Saturday.
“Any report based on unsworn, unsubstantiated and poorly investigated complaints that were filed by criminals is totally meaningless,” he said.