Ballot Question #2: Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB)
This proposal would amend the City Charter to:
Increase the size of the Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB) from 13 to 15 members by adding one member appointed by the Public Advocate and adding one member jointly appointed by the Mayor and Speaker of the Council who would serve as chair, and to provide that the Council directly appoint its CCRB members rather than designate them for the Mayor’s consideration and appointment;
Require that the CCRB’s annual personnel budget be high enough to fund a CCRB employee headcount equal to 0.65% of the Police Department’s uniformed officer headcount, unless the Mayor makes a written determination that fiscal necessity requires a lower budget amount;
Require that the Police Commissioner provide the CCRB with a written explanation when the Police Commissioner intends to depart or has departed from discipline recommended by the CCRB or by the Police Department Deputy (or Assistant Deputy) Commissioner for Trials;
Allow the CCRB to investigate the truthfulness of any material statement that is made within the course of the CCRB’s investigation or resolution of a complaint by a police officer who is the subject of that complaint, and recommend discipline against the police officer where appropriate; and
Allow the CCRB members, by a majority vote, to delegate the board’s power to issue and seek enforcement of subpoenas to compel the attendance of witnesses and the production of records for its investigations to the CCRB Executive Director.
Shall this proposal be adopted?
The Way Things Are Now
Structure of the CCRB. The Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB) and its staff are responsible for fairly and independently investigating public complaints against New York City police officers (e.g., excessive use of force, abuse of authority, discourtesy, or the use of offensive language). When the CCRB finds misconduct, it can recommend to the police commissioner that an officer be disciplined. The police commissioner, who is appointed by the mayor, can then accept or reject the CCRB’s recommendation. The mayor controls the appointment of all 13 members of the CCRB, including the chairperson, although the City Council designates five (one from each borough) and the police commissioner nominates three. When there is a vacancy, the Charter does not address how quickly the vacancy must be filled.
Protected CCRB Budget. The mayor and the City Council set and approve the CCRB’s budget, which can vary from year to year.
Deviation from Disciplinary Recommendations. After finding police misconduct, the CCRB can recommend to the police commissioner that an officer be disciplined. Disciplinary recommendations can include specific guidance, formalized training, loss of vacation days, or a formal trial overseen by an NYPD official, which could lead to suspension or termination. The Commissioner can accept or reject the CCRB’s recommendations, or those from the NYPD trial. If the CCRB recommends an officer be disciplined, the police commissioner must tell the CCRB what action will be taken, but does not have to provide a thorough explanation in all cases.
False Official Statements in CCRB Matters. If, during a CCRB investigation, there is reason to believe that a police officer has made a false statement, the CCRB does not have the power to investigate or recommend disciplinary action for the falsehood and may only refer the allegation to the Police Department for further investigation.
Delegation of Subpoena Power. When the CCRB is investigating misconduct, it needs to review the evidence in the case, including witness testimony and records, such as documents, photographs, and video recordings. The Board can, at its meetings about once a month, vote to issue a legally enforceable written request (a subpoena) for the evidence.
If Ballot Question #2 Passes
Structure of the CCRB. The CCRB will have 15 board members. Five will be directly appointed by the City Council, eight will be appointed by the mayor (including three who are nominated by the police commissioner). One new member would be directly appointed by the public advocate, and the other new member would be appointed jointly by the mayor and the speaker of the City Council and serve as chairperson. If the position of chair becomes vacant, an interim chair will be appointed by the mayor from the current members. In addition, any vacancy on the CCRB must be filled within 60 days.
Protected CCRB Budget. To protect the CCRB budget from year-to-year changes, the CCRB’s personnel budget will be enough to fund a staff that is at least equal to 0.65% of the number of uniformed NYPD officers. The budget can be made smaller only if the mayor makes a written showing that the cuts are necessary as part of an overall plan to reduce the city budget.
Deviation from Disciplinary Recommendations. The police commissioner will be required to notify the CCRB of any action taken in response to a CCRB disciplinary recommendation, including any disciplinary measures or penalty imposed. When a recommendation from the CCRB or NYPD trial is not followed, the Commissioner must provide a detailed written explanation of the reasons. If the level of discipline is reduced, the explanation must be provided within 45 days and include a description of how the decision was made and the factors considered.
False Official Statements in CCRB Matters. The CCRB will be able to investigate when, during a CCRB investigation of a police officer, the officer makes a material official statement related to the investigation that may be false and recommend discipline.
Delegation of Subpoena Power. The CCRB will be able to authorize its Executive Director to issue subpoenas, so that the staff can request evidence in a timely manner, and to enforce these subpoenas in court.
Statements Supporting Proposal
Amanda Babine, Director of Policy & Programs, New York Transgender Advocacy Group
Increasing the number of staff at the Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB) will increase the capacity of the CCRB's ability to process claims and hold individuals accountable.
The additional reporting may also lead to more accountability, however, this alone will not decrease police brutality and other systematic issues. Instead, including more funding for community organizations and programs rather than policing will relieve the need for a larger CCRB.
Citizens Union recommends a yes vote on question 2, which would increase oversight of the police department by strengthening the Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB). Multiple changes included in question 2 have been recommended by Citizens Union over the last few years. These include protecting the CCRB budget, requiring the police commissioner to explain deviations in discipline from that recommended after a department trial, and allowing the CCRB to investigate the truthfulness of statements made by a police officer who is the subject of a Board investigation.
Question 2 would also increase the size of the CCRB and allow them to delegate subpoena power to the executive director.
Brian Corr, President, National Association for Civilian Oversight of Law Enforcement
New York City has the largest civilian oversight system in the nation and Question 2 will increase its effectiveness and legitimacy. It enhances the accountability and transparency of the NYPD and aligns with principles of effective oversight including: independence; adequate jurisdictional authority; unfettered access to records; adequate funding & operational resources; public reporting & transparency; and procedural justice & legitimacy.
Pegging the CCRB personnel budget to the NYPD budget is vital for adequate staffing as police practices and equipment change – seen in the need to review thousands of hours of body-worn camera footage during CCRB investigations. Requiring the Police Commissioner to respond in writing when deviating from CCRB disciplinary recommendations promotes dialogue and allows the public to better understand disciplinary decisions. Allowing the Executive Director to exercise the Board’s subpoena power streamlines the investigation process, which is in the interest of complainants, police officers, and the public.
Question 2 will promote policing that is more accountable and transparent, and more responsive to the needs and expectations of the community.
Susan Lerner, Executive Director, Common Cause/NY
The CCRB provides an important independent oversight role for police misconduct. However, more can be done to strengthen its ability to conduct investigations and ensure it has sufficient resources to conduct agency business. These changes are nominal, but serve to signal the city’s continued commitment to substantive accountability measures.
Manhattan Libertarian Party
The Manhattan Libertarian Party supports this small change to increase police accountability. Although there is much more than can be done, we ask that you vote yes.
New York Immigration Coalition
New York Immigration Coalition Position: Support
The Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB) investigates accusations of misconduct against police officers and recommends disciplinary actions. These proposals improve police accountability and the independence of the CCRB by adding members who are not appointed by the Mayor; protecting CCRB’s budget from political interference; requiring the Police Commissioner to explain when CCRB disciplinary recommendations are not followed; giving CCRB subpoena power to require witnesses to give testimony; and giving CCRB the power to investigate potentially false official statements made by police officers.
Chad Y. Royer
As a civilian who was formerly assaulted by a police officer in the Bronx, I would like to see more independent and uninterrupted approach in CCRB investigating complaints. Many of us are still afraid of law enforcement not being accountable for actions resulting in injury or death of individuals. If no reform takes place in making investigations fair and uninterrupted, the fear will not go away. I would also suggest a process where complaints addressed by the CCRB get handled within a faster turnaround time, and where complaints can be made on a more user-friendlier channel.
Bella Wang, Board of Directors, League of Women Voters of the City of New York
We recommend a “yes” vote on this ballot item. We stand in favor of improving public transparency and accountability with respect to the New York Police Department. To achieve more equitable justice, the CCRB membership needs to be more representative, the budget must be adequate, and the Board’s powers need to be expanded.
Statements Opposing Proposal
Janie Medina, Librarian
Increasing to 15 members means increasing salaries for city workers--not acceptable to a tax-payer. When America becomes a socialist society, then add extra workers.
Police Benevolent Association of the City of New York, Inc.
Ballot Question #2 would give CCRB sweeping new powers and drastically increase its budget. It should not be adopted. CCRB is a dysfunctional, ineffective agency, and increasing its authority would harm police officers and have serious ramifications for public safety. While CCRB substantiates as little as 2.1% of complaints it receives, each unsubstantiated complaint can derail an officer’s career, subjecting him or her to performance monitoring and hurting his or her chances of career advancement. An emboldened CCRB would exacerbate this situation, embolden anti-police extremists, and reduce the authority of the Police Commissioner. Such an environment will make it more difficult for officers to do their jobs, leading to a chilling effect on law enforcement that will make the city less safe. Granting CCRB a drastically increased budget that is guaranteed and tied to that of the NYPD is wasteful and irresponsible, as it will divert City resources and strip the City of the ability to adjust the budget in times of economic downturn. In sum, the changes posed by Ballot Question #2 are a threat to public safety and would result in a wasteful allocation of budget resources.