New York City watchdog group now allowed to investigate racial profiling claims against police

The NYPD previously probed claims of bias, but out of 3,480 complaints between 2014 and 2021, only four cases called for discipline.

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The New York City watchdog group that investigates alleged New York Police Department misconduct and receives complaints from locals has expanded its purview to include the investigation of racial profiling claims.

According to The New York Times, the Civilian Complaint Review Board will also be able to investigate officers abusing body cameras and, in some cases, recommend disciplinary measures to the NYPD.

Previously, the police department looked into allegations of bias on its own. Authorities reportedly looked into 3,480 such claims between 2014 and 2021, including grievances that police had mistreated people based on their race, gender, sexual orientation or housing situation. Still, only four cases called for discipline.

A New York Police Department vehicle is shown in 2021. New York City’s Civilian Complaint Review Board, which looks into police misconduct, can now investigate racial profiling claims and other bias allegations against the NYPD. (Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

The power move will also enable the board to investigate officers’ improper use of body cameras.

According to internal statistics from the CCRB, there have been nearly 1,200 complaints about officers who have unlawfully used body-worn cameras since 2018, including 630 just this year. These charges include failing to film an incident or turning on bodycams too late.

Lack of direct access to police body-camera video previously restricted the ability to investigate complaints against officers — that is until the NYPD agreed in November 2019 to expand the board’s film access to expedite cases and conduct more thorough investigations.

The agreement, however, did not grant the CCRB the power to suggest sanctions for improper camera use.

“Body-worn footage is such an incredibly powerful tool in order to be able to substantiate whether there was an actual infraction,” said interim board chair Ava Rice, according to The Times. “We also need to make sure people aren’t making a claim against a police officer that is, quite frankly, not true. It’s important for us to be just on both ends.”

Patrick J. Lynch, the city’s Police Benevolent Association’s president, has cautioned that any allegations against a police officer could be detrimental to that officer’s image and career, even if the allegations prove unfounded.

Lynch claimed in a statement that the demands of the city for aggressive enforcement to address rising crime, along with the CCRB’s ongoing expansion of its jurisdiction and promotion of an anti-police narrative, are putting pressure on the field officers.

Rice, on the other hand, seemingly disagrees with that sentiment.

“These changes are really key to increasing accountability,” she said, The Times reported. “It provides an opportunity for New Yorkers to be treated justly, and not to be subjected to a different set of policing based literally on the color of their skin, or their sexual orientation.”

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