WNYC's Bob Hennelly is an award-winning investigative journalist. While at WNYC he has reported on a wide gamut of major public policy questions ranging from immigration and homeland security to power outages and utility mergers.
In the first half of this year, civilians lodged more than 3,100 complaints against the NYPD — a 6 percent decline over the same period last year, according to the Civilian Complaint Review Board, a watchdog agency.
The figure also reflects a 23 percent decline from the same period in 2009.
One-third of complaints were brought by those who believed they had been illegally stopped and frisked. Eighty-four percent of those who followed through in this category were Latino or African-American.
"Stop and frisks remain the single biggest source of complaints about police misconduct, and these complaints continue to be found valid at a rate higher than other types of complaints," said Chris Dunn, with the New York Civil Liberties Union. "It is not enough for the agency just to report the outcomes of investigations into individual complaints. The CCRB cannot be truly effective until it becomes a more vocal advocate about police misconduct."
While the CCRB received 3,100 complaints against the NYPD made from January until June, it substantiated allegations in 61 cases – the majority of which were confirmed improper stop and frisks.
Almost half of the civilian complaints include charges of the use of excessive force, and 42 percent include allegations of discourteous treatment.
The percentage of substantiated cases dropped to 7 percent in the first half of 2011, down from 10 percent over the same period last year. The agency has a staff of investigators who interview witnesses, alleged victims and the officers named in the complaint to determine its credibility.
The 70 officers involved in the substantiated allegations were disciplined – 11 faced departmental charges, 30 were given command discipline that can include docking vacation days and 69 were given the least severe sanction, which will be carried on their record as "instructions."
In total, 77 percent of the officers who had complaints substantiated against them had some form of discipline applied by the department, down from 87 percent over the same period last year.
CCRB Chair Daniel Chu said one of the greatest challenges for the watchdog agency is "to consistently do more with diminishing resources while continuing to build public confidence in the value and effectiveness of civilian oversight."
Chu, a former prosecutor, now has a criminal defense and commercial litigation practice. He joined the CCRB in 2008 and was named as chairman by Mayor Michael Bloomberg last March.