Hakeem Jeffries calls on the DOJ to expand its investigation of the NYPD

Elected officials in New York are "powerless" to explain NYPD Police Officer Daniel Pantaleo's pay increase

By LOUIS FLORES

U.S. Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-Brooklyn) said on Wednesday that he would ask the U.S. Department of Justice to expand its existing civil rights probe of the 2014 chokehold homicide of a Staten Island father, Eric Garner, to include a review of how the NYPD compensates police officers awaiting adjudication over misconduct and corruption, including being responsible for officer-involved homicides.

“The police department, as much respect as I have for the men and women who wear the uniform, is not an organization prone to transparency and cannot be expected to reasonably police itself,” U.S. Rep. Jeffries said, according to a report published by amNewYork.

The Congressmember had been giving voice to concerns that the New York Police Department officer, Daniel Pantaleo, who was responsible for administering the chokehold that was ruled to have been the cause of the homicide of Mr. Garner, was earning higher income during the time that he has been serving on modified duty at the police department. NYPD Officer Pantaleo had been awaiting the announcement of disciplinary action, if any, from the NYPD and the outcome of a reported investigation by the DOJ that will determine whether NYPD Officer Pantaleo violated the civil rights of the late Mr. Garner. News of NYPD Officer Pantaleo's higher income was first noted in a report published by POLITICO New York.

U.S. Rep. Jeffries concerns followed reports that Mayor Bill de Blasio (D-New York City) had ordered an internal NYPD review of income earned by officers serving modified duty, and the Congressmember's concerns cast doubts on the ability of the NYPD to conduct an independent review of itself.

The NYPD is already the subject of a reported wide-ranging, Federal corruption investigation being led by the office of U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara in Manhattan. The reported civil rights investigation of NYPD Officer Pantaleo's role in Mr. Garner's death is being led by the office of U.S. Attorney Robert Capers in Brooklyn. The press offices of both U.S. Attorneys declined to answer questions for this report.

Increased concerns about the NYPD's inability to police itself have coïncided with the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement. After Mr. Garner was killed, The New York Daily News published the outcome of an investigation that showed on-duty NYPD officers were responsible for 179 homicides over the course of 15 years. Of those police officers involved in the homicides, criminal charges were only brought against three officers, and only one officer was ever convicted, according to the report.

A recent editorial published in The Chief, a news publication geared to New York's municipal employees, described other alleged misconduct complaints filed against NYPD Officer Pantaelo. Since the disciplinary actions recommended by the Civilian Complaint Review Board were reportedly watered down by outgoing NYPD Commissioner William Bratton, the editorial raised concerns about the secrecy surrounding disciplinary actions taken by the police department against its officers. The editorial cited a new interpretation by the de Blasio administration of Section 50-a of the State Civil Rights Law that is now blocking the release of police officers' disciplinary records.

Mayor de Blasio has reportedly come under pressure over his support to keep secret the NYPD's disciplinary records. A very rare report was published by The New York Times in which criticism was heaped on Mayor de Blasio over his efforts to obstruct transparency.

A request for an interview made by Progress Queens to the Civilian Complaint Review Board was declined, and the police oversight body invoked as an out the State law that Mayor de Blasio has recently decided to support. A request made by Progress Queens to the office of the NYPD Deputy Commissioner for Public Information was not answered.

Concerns expressed by U.S. Rep. Jeffries that the NYPD cannot conduct independent reviews that include allegations of misconduct of its police officers mirror the concerns being expressed by key police reform activists, including the daughter of Mr. Garner, Erica Garner, who, on Wednesday, issued a statement, calling, in part, on greater transparency ; passage of the reform bill entitled the Right to Know Act ; and the appointment of permanent, independent prosecutor to try cases of misconduct and corruption against NYPD officers. Ms. Garner has been waiting for justice over the homicide of her father. When she learned about the reported increase in NYPD Officer Pantaleo's renumeration, Ms. Garner posted a series of messages on the Twitter social media network, questioning why City officials, who knew about NYPD Officer Pantaleo's increased earnings, chose to keep quiet.

Council Speaker Mark-Viverito was appalled by the increases in income earned by NYPD Officer Pantaleo, even as she has been blamed for blocking police reform and oversight

Growing efforts to create oversight of the NYPD that is truly independent and autonomous from political influence were undermined when New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito (D-Spanish Harlem) wrecked the chances of the passage of the Right to Know Act when she agreed that she would trust the NYPD to enforce at their discretion efforts at reform that would not be codified with the full force and effect of law. Backlash to Council Speaker Mark-Viverito's compromise is responsible for prompting some New York City Councilmembers to challenge the lockstep neoliberal support for the NYPD that has been advanced by Mayor de Blasio and Council Speaker Mark Viverito, according to a report filed by the journalist Will Bredderman for The New York Observer. However the New York City Councilmembers have yet to defy Council Speaker Mark-Viverito by advancing the Right to Know Act using parliamentary procedure that would circumvent the legislative leader's efforts to block police reform.

In response to news of the increased earnings paid to NYPD Officer Pantaleo, Council Speaker Mark-Viverito said, "He should not be rewarded for his reprehensible actions,” according to a report published by The New York Daily News. Despite her protestations, Council Speaker Mark-Viverto actually has power and authority to effect oversight in respect of the NYPD and to effect reform, and her failure to do so was cited in an editorial published by the editors of The New York Times as derailing police reform in New York City when she blocked passage of the Right to Know Act. A representative of Council Speaker Mark-Viverito's office did not answer a request made by Progress Queens for an interview for this report.

Divergence is now growing between Mayor de Blasio and his political allies, on one side, who view being hard on crime as a predicate to attract neoliberal support for their respective political campaigns, and grassroots advocates for police reform, on the other side, who are increasingly growing dissatisfied with Mayor de Blasio's betrayal of his central 2013 campaign promise to end the discriminatory, race-based policing tactics of the administration of former Mayor Michael Bloomberg (R-New York City). New York's big business community staunchly support the NYPD's heavy-handed, race-based policing tactics, and the role of big business leaders in making large political campaign contributions induces politicians into adopting neoliberal views on policing.

Some nominal very police reform gains have been made, like the announcement that Commissioner Bratton, the chief proponent of the NYPD's race-based policing tactics, would be retiring after activists demanded his removal from office. However, more meaningful reforms, like departmental transparency and accountability for officer-involved homicides, have remained elusive.

In the space of this divergence, key public officials are either cooling their rhetoric on police reform or keeping quiet altogether. Whereas U.S. Attorney Bharara once said he would not hesitate to investigate the NYPD should the circumstances merit an investigation, he has both refused to support the formation of a public commission to investigate the NYPD and refused to commit to appointing a committee of prosecutors from his office to review the NYPD for reform as his office did to bring about systemic reform at Rikers Island. According to the concerns of some police reform activists expressed to Progress Queens, U.S. Attorney Bharara may conclude his reported wide-ranging, Federal corruption investigation of the NYPD after "a few bad apples" were charged with corruption charges.

Not much is known about the worldview that guides U.S. Attorney Capers, except that his office has reportedly stepped up its involvement in investigations that would normally fall within the jurisdiction of his Manhattan counterpart, like the reported investigation of the hedge fund management company, Platinum Partners, which was implicated over its controversial role in winning mandates to manage pension plan assets for the Correction Officers' Benevolent Association.

Despite uncertainty about the commitment of U.S. Attorneys Bharara and Capers, and their boss, Attorney General Loretta Lynch, to confront what advocates for police reform describe as the systemic inability of the NYPD to hold its own officers accountable for misconduct and corruption, U.S. Rep. Jeffries and some activists are still turning to Federal prosecutors for justice.

The artist and political commentator Suzannah B. Troy has sued the NYPD, alleging misconduct, coercion, corruption, and retaliation when the NYPD refused to investigate crimes reported by Ms. Troy after she was assaulted and battered in a medical office. Ms. Troy requested that the judge in her New York State Supreme Court case refer the crimes she alleged were committed by the NYPD to the U.S. Attorney's Office, but the Hon. Judge Lynn Kotler denied Ms. Troy's request. Shortly thereafter, Ms. Troy's complaint was dismissed, a judgment that Ms. Troy has publicly announced she will appeal.

"When I asked Judge Lynn Kotler if she would refer my case the U.S. Attorney, considering that the corporate counsel lawyer, Catherine Papandrew lied, stating I wasn't coerced when in fact I was, ... the judge ... panicked, writing in so many words [that it was] not her job," Ms. Troy wrote, in part, in a statement she provided by e-mail to Progress Queens, adding about her judge, "She rushed to throw out my case, calling it morass, stating I didn't make [claims] when I did ...."