The Civilian Complaint Review Board passed a resolution Wednesday enabling it to work more closely with the New York City Police Department to negotiate plea deals for officers accused of misconduct even as critics challenged the independence of the oversight board, which is struggling to be taken seriously by both the community and the NYPD.
New CCRB Chair Richard Emery said that the current disciplinary process undermines the authority of the CCRB, because the police commissioner typically rejects or reduces the sentences of officers found guilty of misconduct by the oversight board.
“The whole point is to try to have the police department ultimately give much more deference to the processes of this agency,” Emery said. “The police department will view us not as an adversary but as a viable and collaborative form of discipline.”
Under the new guidelines, which were established in a closed-door meeting between Emery and NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton last night, the CCRB’s prosecutors would negotiate directly with the NYPD’s Advocate Office to establish plea deals prior to departmental trials. “Front-loading” the involvement of the NYPD will eliminate what has become the typical outcome of CCRB disciplinary recommendations – the NYPD Commissioner, who is the final arbiter for officer discipline, tossing out the CCRB’s sentence, Emery said. This undermines this board’s credibility, he said.
But during the public comment portion of the meeting, several speakers said the board was already undermined by Emery’s close relationship with Police Commissioner Bill Bratton. Emery was Bratton’s attorney and served in an advisory role in 2000 while Bratton considered a run for Gracie Mansion.
Ephraim Cruz, a former NYPD officer from the Bronx, asked the board to push Emery out.
“That the board has not made a motion for him to step down speaks to the credibility of the entire board,” he said. “How can you guys do your work with integrity and credibility if you as board member s allow the very head of your entity to have a longstanding relationship with the people you’re supposed to supervise and investigate and hold accountable – there is no credibility folks.”
Emery’s “palling around” and close relationship with Bratton, highlighted by the closed-door powwow last night, was “highly suspect,” Cruz said.
The board took no action on Cruz’s recommendation, but Emery defended his relationship with Bratton as “an opportunity.”