It isn’t illegal to videotape police officers on the job, and according to a new report authored by the Civilians Complaint Review Board, civilian-recorded video has substantiated a large uptick in claims of police brutality this year. In the report, Richard Emery, CCRB Chair, states plainly that “the big news in police oversight is one word: video. Video is changing everything,” he writes.
To that effect, the CCRB noted that it has validated wrongdoing in 21 percent of the cases it examined in 2015, which is a big increase from 15 percent of last year. Video evidence in support of excessive force claims has also proliferated over the last three years–from 15 percent in 2012 to 45 percent in 2015, according to the CCRB. However, the CCRB’s report also maintains that number of civilian claims of police misconduct is slowing down. “The first half of 2015 has seen a significant (22 percent) decrease in the number of civilian complaints of police misconduct, including a reduction in the number of stop-and-frisk complaints,” the report states. This data falls in line with recent findings advanced by the NYPD that claim this summer is one of New York City’s safest on record.
The report stops short of a damning indictment on the NYPD, noting that only a slim minority of police officers regularly engage in controversial tactics. For the vast number of officers patrolling New York City, only a few were accused of excessive force between January 2015 and the beginning of this summer.
From January 2014 through June 30, 2015, one percent of identified officers on the force were responsible for 18% of all misconduct claims, five percent were responsible for 52%, and 10% were responsible for 78% of claims during this period. Five percent of officers were responsible for generating 100% of force complaints. Significantly, 86% of officers had no CCRB complaints during this period of time.
Among the more controversial police tactics that saw a decreased rate was Stop and Frisk, which experienced a marked decline from its levels of the same time last year. “The CCRB received 441 stop-and-frisk complaints from January through June 2015, as compared to 571 stop-and-frisk complaints in the same period of 2014—a 23% decrease,” the report states.
Although video is fast becoming a tool in the pursuit of justice for victims of excessive force, not all substantiated claims yield prosecution for officers who commit egregious acts. Daniel Pantaleo, the NYPD officer who famously put Eric Garner in a fatal chokehold last year, was never indicted, even though the entire altercation was filmed. Additionally, NYPD officers have been known to arrest and jail bystanders for filming certain police situations, even though the presence of passerby wielding smart phone cameras had no affect on police activity.
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