NYPD commissioner refused over half of CCRB discipline recommendations in 2022 — 100s more than initially reported

NYPD Commissioner Keechant Sewell
NYPD Commissioner Keechant Sewell Photo credit Spencer Platt/Getty Images

NEW YORK (1010 WINS) — NYPD Commissioner Keechant Sewell refused 425 out of 754 punishment recommendations from New York City’s civilian oversight board in 2022, according to a report from the Legal Aid Society released Thursday.

That’s over half of all cases reviewed and 346 more rejections than the department originally claimed at the end of 2022.

The Civilian Complaint Review Board investigates complaints of police misconduct and recommends discipline, but it is ultimately up to the NYPD commissioner to decide whether or not to punish misbehaving cops.

At the end of 2022, Sewell issued a memo claiming to have overturned “over 70” CCRB recommendations due to findings being “unfair” to officers.

Sewell avoided public scrutiny by allowing the statute of limitations to expire on hundreds of cases rather than issuing a public “departure letter” that explains the decision not to punish officers.

“The frequency of these departures and their biased reasoning suggest a disregard for the primary goals of the NYPD’s Disciplinary Matrix mandated by the New York City Council — that is, transparent, fair, and predictable accountability for officer misconduct,” said Maggie Hadley, a member of the Legal Aid Society’s Criminal Defense Practice’s Special Litigation Unit. “This further erodes public trust in the NYPD’s disciplinary system, and we demand immediate action by City Hall to ensure that Commissioner Sewell ceases to abuse her discretion to undermine discipline.”

The NYPD did not immediately respond to 1010 WINS’ request for comment. In a statement to the New York Daily News, a spokesperson blamed delays within the CCRB for the department’s failure to follow the recommendations.

“The cases were closed after the CCRB failed to provide these 346 cases to the NYPD within a reasonable time period before the expiration of the statute of limitations,” the spokesperson said. “The Department will continue to make tremendous efforts to evaluate cases provided by the CCRB and it is our hope that the CCRB examines its own processes to ensure the efficiency of its operations.”

The statement did not address why Sewell initially underreported the number of times the NYPD failed to follow the CCRB’s recommendations.

In some cases in which discipline was rejected with a departure letter, Sewell’s justification did not follow the NYPD’s disciplinary matrix, according to the LAS.

In one case the organization reviewed, the report found Sewell justified not punishing an officer because the complainant did not suffer any injuries. The CCRB’s recommendation, however, accounted for the lack of injury by recommending a lesser punishment prescribed for excessive force without injury.

“The Commissioner's implication that a lack of injuries justified reducing this penalty represents either a misunderstanding of the Matrix or an attempt to mislead,” wrote the LAS of the incident.

In other departure letters, the report found Sewell was overly credulous or selective when reviewing police misconduct.

The LAS described an incident in which a 240-pound officer lifted a “small, skinny” 14-year-old boy off the ground “so that his head [was] above” him and slammed him into the ground, injuring the child’s back and elbow.

The CCRB found the officer hadn’t issued a warning before using force on the child. He even admitted in an interview with CCRB investigators that the boy did not resist when the officer placed his arm on him.

Sewell refused to categorize the incident as excessive force and did not punish the officer on the grounds that he “described his actions as controlled.”

Featured Image Photo Credit: Spencer Platt/Getty Images