Takin’ it to the streets: NYPD written complaints down, physical attacks on cops continue to soar

Image Credit: ThankYouNYPD

While written complaints against NYPD cops have plummeted, physical assaults against New York’s Finest have zoomed skyward.

The New York City Police Department has among its variations of accountability what is known as the CCRB (Civilian Complaint Review Board), a rather self-explanatory concept in many police organizations. The body comprising the CCRB receives formal complaints submitted by citizens who purportedly found themselves in interactions with NYPD cops involving perceptions of police misconduct.

Despite the fact that many of America’s approximately 18,500 law enforcement agencies have invested in equipping their police personnel with body-worn camera systems to record encounters between cops and the public, effectively ferreting out erroneous complaints (false reports), the legitimacy of having something like the CCRB is nonetheless an ingredient to mitigate poor policing.

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Local New York City media reporter Dean Balsamini claims “complaints against the NYPD have plummeted, dropping 20% since January and even 4% in the two months since the George Floyd demonstrations, records show.”

The brainchild behind Blue Lives Matter NYC,  NYPD Sergeant Joseph Imperatrice believes a triad of reasons likely explain the drop in formal complaints. He said, “We are in the height of anti-police rhetoric. It is not subsiding by any means.” Imperatrice made distinctions, however, citing three causal features to understand the drop in written complaints, and nature is behind some of this factor.

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Talking to the New York Post, Imperatrice conceded the “decline primarily to three things: the coronavirus pandemic, which ‘played a big role…due to (fewer) interpersonal interactions during the outbreak’; the reduction to ‘zero proactive police units on a precinct level’; and the department’s decision to disband the 600-cop anti-crime unit in mid-June.” So among the extenuating circumstances induced by COVID coupled with an inexplicable stand-down philosophy by NYPD’s executives ordered by their lovely fence-straddling elected leaders results in an organic reduction and thus lower numbers stemming from diminished police contacts.

Yet not everyone is staving off going out. Instead, angst-driven people jacked up on unmitigated emotional sway are taking it to the streets and directly accosting cops. So-called street justice —handling matters personally, not formally and within the system’s constructs— seems to be the preference leading to attacks on police officers.

According to a published report by the New York Post, the numbers and time-frame involving year-to-year and month-to-month comparisons are intriguing. In essence, those who are inclined to wage whatever war their minds conjure are doing so against NYPD cops on the mean streets of the Big Apple, equating to the drop in data relative to formal complaints.

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Despite part of the theory pertaining to COVID keeping people away from rendering written complaints, the CCRB’s website announces they are temporarily closed to in-person submissions due to COVID concerns but, instead, are taking complaints via remote conduits (swearing under oath via electronic means).

One other significant, traditional factor to consider is any NYPD member diligently doing his/her job, as any cop will translate for you, is the ordinary end product of combatting crime and doing the job relentlessly. As Imperatrice explained, many law enforcers find themselves a target due to their professional constitution to “consistently make arrests” and not necessarily because they did anything wrong or against policy. Police complaints are typically “a retaliatory instrument that has been used as a tactic by the bad guys.” In this regard, the lore goes: “If you’re not getting complaints as a cop, you’re likely not doing your job.”

Incidentally, it is not just recently that CCRB filings have declined. Since the 2006 formal number of 7,663 complaints, the NYPD has garnered a significant drop in complaints against police personnel to 2,655 in August 2020, equating to a mostly steady reduction throughout the past 14 years. If only assaults against cops were disinclined…

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meet the author

Stephen Owsinski is a LifeZette contributing editor. Owsinski is a retired law enforcement officer whose career included assignments in the Uniformed Patrol Division and Field Training Officer (FTO) unit. He is also a columnist for the National Police Association.

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