Last week influential members of Brooklyn neighborhoods like Crown Heights and Prospect Heights came together for their monthly Community Board 8 meeting, These meetings serve two purposes within the thriving and fast-changing dynamic that is current day Brooklyn. Relevant community members can educate the attendees on important topics while also providing a unique forum for citizens to voice their opinion. Among the long list of announcements from councilmen, the mayor, and important neighborhood officials, there was a sincere effort to educate attendees about the Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB), a seasoned impartial agency that has been independent of the police department since 1993.
The Civilian Complaint Review Board is conveniently located at 100 Church Street on the 10th Floor. This vital agency is tasked with investigating interactions with police officers, based on established laws for policing and current best practices. In an interview with a community board meeting attendees, some citizens were intrigued by the CCRB and how their efforts could shape police accountability in an around Brooklyn.
“I’ve been to a few meetings but I didn’t feel like I understood what the Civilian Complaint Review Board was until today. I originally thought that the hierarchy of police and judges wouldn’t allow for another party to have an impact. But just as there are checks and balances in other parts of the system, it makes sense that the police aren’t immune.” said Ihsan Chowdury of Prospect Heights
It’s important to note that while the Civilian Complain Review Board is poised to provide impartial reviews of police interactions, they typically investigate specific types of claims against sworn officers of the NYPD. These claims include excessive or unnecessary abuse of authority, discourtesy, and offensive language. For complaints about civilian employees like school safety officers or other officials, citizens can’t use the CCRB and must lodge their complaints with the agency in question. For some community board meeting attendees, the reality of police interaction complaints and the force required to pursue them makes it difficult to feel empowered to speak out against any wrongdoing.
Some locals expressed confusion about the difference between a Civilian Complaint Review Board and the Internal Affairs office which has long been associated with police misconduct accusations. According to a representative from the CCRB, internal affairs functions as the police department’s internal watchdog, to prevent, uncover, and investigate corruption, perjury and off-duty criminal conduct. When they receives a complaint that falls within the CCRB’s jurisdiction, it refers the case to them for further investigation.
“I sincerely want to believe in this initiative but I’ve found that no matter how distant a review board claims to be, their loyalty always lies with the public servant. In this case we have regular everyday people trying to explain how an officer was demeaning or how they were inappropriate or how they didn’t help. Those are heavy accusations. At the end of the day, who provides the discipline after these infractions come to light? Because if it’s the NYPD, then it becomes a circle of finger pointing” explained Michael F. Rainey of Crown Heights
While the CCRB has the authority to investigate complaints and to determine if misconduct occurred, under the law only the police commissioner has the authority to impose discipline and decide the appropriate penalty.
Despite the perception about the initiative, presenters made a point to reinforce the idea that regardless of the outcome, these complaints remain on an officer’s personnel record at the police department. The review board aims to be thorough by interviewing the subject officer, interviewing people who may have witnessed the incident, looking at video when it exists, examining medical records when there are injuries, and much more. For more information or to file a complaint against an officer, please visit the CCRB website here.