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The NYPD: Get Real on Transparency

June 25, 2018

You don't need a panel of retired feds, no matter how distinguished, to tell people what's wrong with the NYPD's disciplinary system. Even a layman like me who never went to law school can explain it in one word.

Click here to read what the police brass say about NYPD ConfidentialThat word is “transparency”— or, in the case of the NYPD, the lack thereof.

Police sources say the panel, which looks like a public relations dodge, is the brainchild of Deputy Commissioner for Legal Matters, Larry Byrne, known to readers of this column as Smarty-Pants Byrne. Although the NYPD had been releasing cops’ disciplinary records since the 1970s, Byrne came up with a novel interpretation two years ago that those records are protected by state law 50-A.

Instead of telling Byrne to mind his own business and keep his mouth shut, then police commissioner Bill Bratton accepted Byrne’s interpretation. He then retired, leaving his successor Jim O’Neill and Mayor de Blasio to deal with the public outcry from the media, civil rights organizations, and most recently the City Council.

Click here to read the New York Times profile of Leonard LevittThe issue is expected to be decided this fall when the Court of Appeals, the state’s highest court, hears a case brought by the New York Civil Liberties Union against the NYPD, regarding its refusal to release its trial room decisions. The NYPD has justified its refusal by citing 50-A.

Still, the NYPD’s lack of transparency extends beyond 50-A. Take the seemingly never-ending case of police officer Daniel Pantaleo, who’s been under investigation by the feds for the past four years for the “chokehold” death of Eric Garner in Staten Island.

Along with the fatal police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, these two incidents were among the first that have led to the current narrative in the national media that police across the country are indiscriminately killing young black men.

The feds took up Pantaleo’s case after a Staten Island grand jury declined to indict him. While the case has lingered, O’Neill has refused to try Pantaleo internally, citing possible federal charges.

Sorry, Jim, that doesn’t cut it. There’s precedent for trying him internally while the feds muddle. In 1999, then commissioner Howard Safir tried ex-cop Frank Livoti internally for the death of Anthony Baez in the Bronx while federal charges were pending. Livoti was dismissed from the force and was subsequently convicted in federal court of violating Baez’s civil rights.

Nor, it should be noted, is the NYPD alone among law enforcement agencies lacking in transparency. One of the feds on the transparency panel is Robert Capers, the former U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District, which declined to indict Pantaleo on federal civil rights charges. Perhaps Capers can explain why then Attorney General Loretta Lynch had the case moved to the Justice Department in Washington, where government attorneys revved it up but still, more than four years after Garner’s death, refuse to announce a decision.

Click here to read the Washington Post article on NYPD Confidential SAINT MIKE?
The NY Times devoted nearly a full page to the benevolence of New York City’s former billionaire mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has pledged $80 million of his fortune to elect Democrats to Congress so they can vote against Donald Trump. So far so good. But before the Times deifies him, let’s remember the following: Mayor Mike ran as a non-political independent. He pledged to support the city’s two-term limit law. While mayor he considered running for president. That didn’t work out. He then considered vice president. That didn’t work out either. He then violated his campaign pledge and spent millions more to abrogate the city’s two-term limit law so he could run for a third term. He then spent millions more to barely defeat an anemic opponent. He also gave us gave Ray Kelly as the longest serving and most powerful police commissioner in city history. Kelly gave us unchecked Stop-and-Frisk and unchecked spying on Muslims. That gave us Bill de Blasio.

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