New York City police officers under investigation for using excessive force against protesters after the death of George Floyd are refusing to appear before an oversight board which wants to take their statements via videoconferencing.
The Civilian Complaint Review Board, an independent agency which investigates NYPD personnel accused of wrongdoing, reportedly has a backlog of at least 1,109 cases that require interviews with officers.
But police unions have said they will not permit their members to be questioned by teleconference because they claim it deprives officers of the chance to have their attorneys properly advise them.
New York Police Department officers watch protesters during a rally for George Floyd in Brooklyn on June 4. Police unions are forbidding their members from testifying before a civilian oversight agency investigating complaints of police brutality
Since lawyers cannot see their clients’ body language, they cannot provide adequate representation, the unions claim.
‘As a basic policy, we won’t do Zoom,’ Phillip Karasyk, an attorney for the Detectives’ Endowment Association, told The City.
‘We are there to fully protect our clients’ rights.
‘The best way to have an interview is face to face.
‘Everybody is in the same room and gets the feel of what’s going on.’
New York’s three other police unions – the Police Benevolent Association, the Sergeants Benevolent Association, and the Captains Endowment Association – have taken a similar position, according to The City.
The unions’ refusal to have members participate in online hearings may not hold legal water.
Because of state-mandated social distancing guidelines during the COVID-19 pandemic, legal systems in four states and Puerto Rico have moved to conducting their hearings through videoconferencing.
New York State conducts bail hearings and arraignments remotely. City agencies like the Department of Education have also started to hold their proceedings online.
‘It’s being done across the legal system at every level, in every jurisdiction now,’ said John Siegal, a CCRB board member.
‘And that’s got to happen in the police disciplinary process, too. There’s no excuse at this point.’
Siegal added that even during proceedings in the pre-pandemic era, lawyers did not need to ‘read the room.’
Attorneys were also not permitted to ‘kick the witness under the table to send signals in any circumstance,’ he said.
The Civilian Complaint Review Board wants officers to testify via Webex teleconference, but police unions say that this denies their members adequate legal representation since lawyers cannot be present in the same room. The image above shows a CCRB livstreamed meeting on Wednesday
The CCRB receives complaints from New Yorkers who say they witnessed police misconduct.
During the pandemic, the agency has taken sworn statements from complainants online.
The CCRB has experienced delays in rolling out its videoconferencing format.
Recent events, including the mass, widespread rioting following Floyd’s death in Minneapolis police custody on May 25, have complicated the schedule.
But now that the system is up and running, the CCRB wants to move ahead. It says there are some 750 complaints alleging abuse by police during the protests as well as officers’ efforts to enforce the recent curfew.
In the period between May 28 and June 7, nearly 2,500 people were arrested. More than half were detained for violating curfew, according to the NYPD.
The department said that at least 350 officers and 132 protesters were injured during those 11 days.
Dozens of protesters testified remotely during a City Council hearing on Tuesday.
The CCRB usually interviews police after looking at medical records, surveillance footage, and other evidence.
It then passes along any recommendation of disciplinary action to the NYPD commissioner.
New York Gov. Cuomo signs major police reform bills that make disciplinary records public as Rev. Al Sharpton praises him for ‘standing with us when no-one else will’
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has signed into a law a series of major police reform bills that will make disciplinary records public and ban police chokeholds, as Rev. Al Sharpton praises him for ‘standing with us when no-one else will’.
The package of four bills, which the governor described as ‘nation-leading’ and ‘aggressive’, will end 50-A, ban chokeholds, ban false race-based 911 calls and make the attorney general the independent prosecutor in killings of unarmed civilians by police.
Cuomo also issued an executive order mandating reforms to local police departments and warned that if such steps are not taken, these departments will have all state funding cut.
Cuomo signed the new bills in a press conference Friday attended by the mothers of Eric Garner and Sean Bell, unarmed black Americans who died at the hands of police in New York.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has signed a major police reform bill that makes disciplinary records public
The move has come in response to the widespread protests calling for an end to police brutality and racism across America following the killing of black man George Floyd who died when a white Minneapolis cop knelt on his neck for almost nine minutes on Memorial Day.
The governor signed in the series of police reforms Friday to make cops more accountable and pave the way for police reform following the deaths of multiple black people during arrest or in police custody over the years.
‘The truth is this: Police reform is long overdue, and Mr. Floyd’s murder is just the most recent murder,’ Cuomo said.
‘It’s about being here before – many, many times before.’
The bills, which faced opposition from a coalition of law enforcement unions, include the ‘Eric Garner Act’, which bans cops from using chokeholds and allows prosecutors to charge cops if they do use the tactic and injure or kill someone in the process.
The law is named after Garner, who died after being put in a chokehold by NYPD Officer Daniel Pantaleo on Staten Island back in 2014.
His death was caught on camera as he was heard pleading for his life, saying ‘I can’t breathe’ – the same final words of Floyd.
The governor was praised by Rev. Al Sharpton over the move, who had joined Cuomo along with State Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and State Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie at the unveiling of the historic bill
Pantaleo was able to stay on the force until 2019 and was also able to keep his disciplinary records hidden from public view thanks to 50-a.
Cuomo also announced the repealing of the 50-a in the widespread reforms unveiled today – now making police disciplinary records public.
‘That should be done in every police agency in this country,’ Cuomo said of the reforms to New York police.
Cuomo also issued an executive order requiring local governments to develop and adopt plans to reform police forces across the Big Apple and address use of force, police bias and other issues within their departments.
Sharpton, who spoke during Floyd’s funeral in Houston last week (pictured) and has long called for an end to police brutality and racism, said: ‘He has raised the bar.’
Reforms must be developed with local communities and must ‘reinvent and modernize police strategies’, Cuomo said.
If governments fail to take these steps by April 1, they will not receive funding from the state, Cuomo warned.
‘We’re not going to fund police agencies in this state that do not look at what has been happening, come to terms with it and reform themselves,’ he said.
The governor was praised by Rev. Al Sharpton over the move, who had joined Cuomo along with State Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and State Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie at the unveiling of the historic bill.
Sharpton, who spoke during Floyd’s funeral in Houston last week and has long called for an end to police brutality and racism, said: ‘He has raised the bar.’