Adams says he’s taking a ‘deep dive’ into police discipline

Mayor Eric Adams said Thursday he is looking into reforming the police disciplinary process, saying the current one is too cumbersome.

“I’m taking a deep dive into police discipline,” Adams told reporters at an unrelated press conference in Harlem.

“There are many areas that we’re going to have to revamp and reform,” he added. “We want it to be efficient, but it should not take as long as it’s taking to get to a final result.”

The mayor, a former NYPD captain, spoke in response to a question on a watchdog report released Wednesday that substantiated more than a quarter of misconduct complaints against NYPD officers during the 2020 George Floyd protests. Following an examination of more than 200 complaints, the Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB) has recommended that 145 NYPD officers be disciplined for misconduct.

Adams did not provide a specific timeline for reform, suggesting that he was still studying the matter, but his remarks represent something of a shift from recent weeks. In the face of rising crime, he’s gone out of his way to laud the police for their performance. He has often lamented that officers are not given enough credit for their work while blaming progressive Democrats and the “defund the police” movement for inciting hostility toward the NYPD .

Police discipline has long been a simmering issue in New York City. In the most prominent example that outraged criminal justice activists, Daniel Pantaleo — the officer who administered the chokehold that killed Eric Garner —remained on the job for five years as his case wound through various judicial processes. He was fired and stripped of his pension benefits in 2019 after a police administrative judge recommended that he be terminated.

Last week, NYPD Commissioner Keechant Sewell went against the police union’s recommendation to have the NYPD handle the case of an officer accused of killing Delrawn Small during a 2016 driving dispute. She opted to allow the CCRB to continue its disciplinary proceedings against the officer, Wayne Issacs, who remained on the job and was off duty at the time. Adams supported that decision, drawing the ire of the Police Benevolent Association.

In addition to the system taking too long, Adams also said there needs to “be a clear standard based on the cases.”

During another press conference earlier this week, a reporter pointed out that as a police officer himself, Adams was a prominent critic of the NYPD.

“What’s different now is that we’re not critiquing bad practices,” Adams responded. “We just have reached the belief that we don’t need our police. And that’s not what the overwhelming number of New Yorkers believe.”

Prior to the release of the CCRB’s report, a Gothamist investigation found the CCRB experienced delays due to difficulty in identifying police officers who had either improperly concealed their shield numbers, used another officer’s identifying helmet or protective gear, or refused to disclose their names and badge numbers when asked by protesters.

The oversight board did not provide details of specific complaints over the 2020 protests, but high-profile incidents captured on video during that time include officers who drove their vehicles into a crowd of protesters, an officer throwing a woman to the ground and instances of kettling – a controversial crowd control technique.

The CCRB can only make a recommendation for police discipline. The final decision rests with Sewell. So far the NYPD has finished investigating 44 cases. A total of 18 officers were disciplined while punishment was waived for 23 others .

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