A new report by the city's oversight agency concluded the New York Police Department failed to train its officers on how to not use excessive force.
Even just the definition of "force" is vague and imprecise in police training documents, the report by the Department of Investigations said, and the way by which complaints are tracked has been flawed and fractured.
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The investigation reviewed of 179 use-of-force incidents reported by the Civilian Complaint Review Board — which tracks complaints made against police — between 2010 to 2014, cutting off just as the NYPD announced last fall it would retrain its officers on deescalation tactics.
Investigators found the police dismissed and did not discipline officers in at least 37 CCRB complaints despite their being substantiated as having involved unnecessary force.
The investigation also concluded NYPD downgraded disciplinary action recommended by the CCRB to lesser or no penalties about in 67 percent of relevant cases.
"Law enforcement is given a tremendous responsibility to police fairly and effectively," said NYPD Inspector General Philip Eure in a statement Thursday.
Eure added that NYPD can "greatly enhance police accountability" through a series of reforms outlined in the 62-page report.
Among its recommendations, the report suggests NYPD update and clarify how it defines force and require deescalation in all appropriate encounters. It also says NYPD should adopt a proper tracking system for all force complaints, and publish those results in an annual report.
Police Commissioner Bill Bratton, who is scheduled to address a new series of use-of-force guidelines on Thursday afternoon, released a letter to the de Blasio administration and Department of Investigations in which he said NYPD is on top of the problem.
"For almost a year, the NYPD conducted an exhaustive review of force polices and related issues," wrote NYPD Deputy Commissioner Lawrence Byrne in the letter. "The result of this review is significantly enhanced policies, procedures and training along with standardization of investigative tactics and reporting."
Byrne affirmed the department already created a Force Investigations Division that will focus specifically on incidents where officers fire their gun or when suspects die while in custody.
On the ground, however, police union leadership is calling for an end to what Patrolmen's Benevolent Association President Pat Lynch described as an increasing onus on officers.
"No amount of new training or additional paperwork will make necessary force that is lawful and properly used by police officers acceptable to those who want to return to the hands-off, reactive policing strategies that sent crime soaring in the past," Lynch said in a statement.
"New York City police officers want to keep our streets safe," Lynch added. "To do that, we need support - not more reports."