The NYPD Inspector General—the much-discussed independent regulatory office that New York's City Council voted into existence in 2013—released its first-ever report today, and unsurprisingly, it's all about chokeholds. The IG's equally unsurprising findings: cops use the banned move too quickly, too often, and are rarely properly punished for it.
The report examines the ten most recent substantiated chokehold complaints received by the department, the earliest of which was filed in 2009. In nine of the ten cases, the Citizen Complaint Review Board—a separate independent regulatory office, which can theoretically take action on complaints of officer misconduct—recommended that the cops receive administrative charges, the highest punishment available. In all nine of those cases, the officers ended up with lesser discipline or no discipline at all.
Though the IG makes clear that its survey of 10 cases does not constitute a statistically significant study, it does draw a few broad conclusions. The use of chokeholds—which were explicitly prohibited by the NYPD's own patrol guide long before Eric Garner was killed—is "troubling" in any context, it writes, and "alarming" when the hold is the "first act of physical force in response to verbal resistance" from a citizen, as it was in several of the reviewed cases. And the way that discipline is handled, at least in the five year period from 2009-2014 (which was mostly under previous commissioner Ray Kelly, it should be noted) is "complex, multi-tiered, and often delivers inconsistent results."
Inadvertently, maybe, the report also makes a good case for the IG's own relevance. BackWhen City Council was weighing whether or not to create the office, critics often pointed to the CCRB, arguing that the city already had an independent NYPD regulator. But as the report shows, and as supporters of the IG bill argued at the time, the CCRB is completely ineffectual: though it can recommend discipline, it can't actually enforce it—the NYPD itself makes the ultimate decision on whether to punish its own officers. What could go wrong?