Angelica Florio

Last Wednesday, New York City’s Civilian Complaint Review Board, or CCRB, held its public meeting at the the Van Dyke Community Center in Brownsville, Brooklyn, to discuss police relations with the local communities.

CCRB is an independent agency which empowers New Yorkers to file complaints against police officers for using unnecessary force, abusing authority, discourtesy, or using offensive language. The CCRB’s bi-monthly board meetings intend to foster an open dialogue on the relationship between law enforcement and community members, where the public is encouraged to speak on ongoing issues.

Six board members attended the meeting along with its Chairman, Frederick Davie, and Executive Director, Jonathan Darche. The meeting, which lasted just over two hours, started off with a report from the CCRB’s Director of Policy and Advocacy, Nicole Napolitano, followed by a period for community members to voice their questions and concerns. Overall, most community members attending the meeting came from Brownsville, while a few also voiced concerns over police conduct in Bed-Stuy.

Napolitano’s report broke down the CCRB’s 2018 findings in fully investigated complaints. In Brooklyn, 40 percent of the complaints made to CCRB were found unsubstantiated, which means that the CCRB was unable to determine what happened in the incident under investigation, and 32 percent were exonerated, meaning that after the CCRB’s investigation the police officer’s actions were found lawful. Twelve percent of CCRB’s 2018 investigations found that the police officer could not be identified in an incident which was found to have occurred.

Only 10 percent of the complaints made to CCRB in 2018 were substantiated, which Napolitano explained means, “the misconduct occurred and that it was in fact misconduct,” and that might indicate that the CCRB isn’t working as efficiently as community members hope it would. While many attendees had positive feedback about the CCRB, most people who voiced their concerns regarding the organization had constructive feedback.

“If [the CCRB is] supposed to stop the police misconduct it’s not really doing anything,” said a teenage girl at the board meeting, “We don’t have cops in this neighborhood all the time, we don’t have cops to help us with things, we don’t really see cops around. When you do see the cops, they’re not helping, they’re not making the situations any better than what you normally see.”

CCRB Board Meeting via Twitter.

The teenager’s comment echoed what numerous community members said at the Wednesday meeting, which is: the police, even if not a big presence in a neighborhood, oftentimes cause problems. In Napolitano’s report from the beginning of the meeting, she revealed that sometimes the CCRB receives higher complaint rates from areas where there are higher numbers of police interactions with the public, such as in the 81st NYPD Precinct in Bed-Stuy.

In January, a Community Service Society report revealed that more highly gentrified areas in New York, like Bushwick, are often over-policed. In less gentrified areas of New York, like Brownsville, CCRB complaints occur much more frequently than other parts of Brooklyn.

One graphic shown at the board meeting compared the CCRB’s Complaint Rates by each precinct compared to the Felony Crime Rates in the same areas. In Precinct 73, located in Brownsville, the CCRB received 10 thousand more complaints than the number of felony crimes committed, meaning that Brownsville community members report police infractions more often than people are guilty of committing crimes.

One man who spoke at the meeting on Wednesday made a call out for Brownsville’s community members to create a system of identifying “bad cops.” Multiple people at the meeting also voiced concerns over undercover cops racially profiling people in Brownsville. Another community member, named Dee Bailey, said, “There are officers that have 10 and 12 unsubstantiated complaints,” to which Darche responded that the CCRB keeps track of even the unsubstantiated complaints against individual NYPD officers.

“I would say that if you were in another industry and you had 10 people complain about you, they would probably think that was a sign that there is something wrong with that employee. So I think it is important that the CCRB keep track of what is happening in our records so that we are aware of what’s gone on, allegedly gone on, even if it’s not been substantiated,” Darche said.

One woman from Bed-Stuy named Tiffany Murray voiced her concern over the biases that police have in her community. She said, “The 79th [precinct] is a testing ground for new officers, and they’re only in there for a period of weeks or maybe a couple of months and they’ve been told the myths and some of the stereotypes and the various things about our communities.” Then Murray added, “So they assume every cluster of kids is a gang and so they treat them like that.”

Napolitano had addressed the CCRB’s initiatives to educate more youths about the organization. “In New York only 15 percent of the population is between 14 to 24 years old, but approximately 18 percent of complaints come from that age group,” Napolitano said in her report. The CCRB has formed a Youth Advisory Council to reach younger community members who might need to file complaints against police officers.

Cover photo courtesy of @YahSupreme.

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