NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The public release of a cache of NYPD disciplinary records by an online news outlet has touched off an angry debate about whether the information should be kept secret, and whether some cops were let off the hook.
The wail of a police siren has got nothing on the ruckus stirred up by Buzzfeed’s decision to release the disciplinary records of 1,800 NYPD employees brought up on disciplinary charges from 2011 to 2015. It includes 319 who were kept on the force even though they committed offenses considered by some to be serious enough to be fired.
Instead, they were sentenced to “dismissal probation” where, if you keep your nose clean for a year, you can keep your job.
“In all cases of misconduct, the penalty shouldn’t be termination,” NYPD Deputy Commissioner of the Department Advocate’s Office Kevin Richardson said. “There are valuations, there are judgments, there are gradations of penalties.”
The records release comes amid a public debate about transparency and how much the public is entitled to know. The NYPD and the mayor say they have been hamstrung in releasing records by a state law that needs to be changed.
Commissioner James O’Neill sought a middle ground, saying they would release disciplinary records with the names blacked out. Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association President Patrick Lynch sued to stop him, and on Monday demanded that O’Neill seek an injunction to take the records down and find out who leaked them.
“Police officers are already the target of retaliatory attacks,” Lynch fumed in a statement sent to the media. “Immediately identify the source of the leak and hold those responsible accountable.”
Meanwhile, there’s a question of the 319 who received “dismissal probation” for such things as lying under oath, excessive force, and in the case of one school safety officer, making sexual advances on one female student.
Professor Jon Shane with the John Jay College of Criminal Justice says some of the offenses appear to be criminal.
“When you talk about lying to a grand jury, lying on police reports,” he said, “those are criminal offenses that should merit termination.”
Shane says the department should explain its reasons for giving some cops a second chance. The NYPD points out that the 319 cases in question are small in a department of 55,000 employees, and where cops have 20 million interactions with the public every year.