Civilians are filing more complaints against the NYPD than they have in more than a decade, according to a new report from the city’s police oversight agency.
The Civilian Complaint Review Board received 5,604 complaints of police misconduct last year, a 51% increase from 2022 and the highest level since 2012.
The oversight agency can recommend charges against a police officer based on a complaint of force, abuse of authority, or discourtesy and offensive language, but it’s up to the NYPD commissioner to decide whether the department will follow those recommendations.
The police commissioner followed CCRB recommendations in 55% of cases last year, down from 71% in 2021, according to the board’s report.
Civil rights advocates said that decline was not entirely surprising.
“[Former] Commissioner [Keechant] Sewell explicitly said she would be imposing less discipline against officers,” said Chris Dunn, legal director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, a nonprofit advocacy group. “There’s no question that the police department has taken a step back and chosen to reduce discipline.” Sewell abruptly resigned last June and was replaced by Edward Caban.
An NYPD spokesperson said in a statement the spike in police misconduct complaints was expected since officers made 20% more arrests in 2023 over quality-of-life concerns, including public urination and drinking and loud music.
“Increases in community complaints are expected to result in increases in police-public interactions and, logically, increases in enforcement,” the statement said. “The amount [of] CCRB complaints pales in comparison to the millions of interactions officers have with the public on [an] annual basis.”
But Dunn argued the NYPD’s rationale for the spike in civilian complaints had no merit.
“It’s a complete diversion,” he said. “Complaint activity varies not by law enforcement activity but by excessive and overly aggressive law enforcement. There’s a very big difference between enforcing the law and abusing police authority.”
Roughly a third of the complaints originated in Brooklyn. A single police precinct in East New York received 25 complaints last year, about four times the average for the city’s 77 precincts.
The NYPD disciplined officers in nearly half of the 155 cases adjudicated by the CCRB last year by revoking between one and 10 vacation days, or suspending the officer for one to 10 days, according to the report.
In cases where the board recommended charges against an officer, 10 officers were found guilty after trial. None were fired by the police department.