Civil rights advocates in the city note, however, that there has been a cost to the new strategy, revealed by steady citizen complaints against more aggressive NYPD officers during the past several years and continuing impunity for many officers who commit human rights violations despite the recent reorganization of both the civilian review board and the police department’s internal affairs bureau. In August 1997, after the alleged torture of Haitian immigrant Abner Louima by police officers made national headlines and outraged city residents, the anti-crime record of the mayor and police department was tarnished. In uncharacteristic fashion, Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and Police Commissioner Howard Safir condemned the officers implicated in the incident as well as those who reportedly did nothing to stop it or report it. In the city’s Civilian Complaint Review Board’s (CCRB) semiannual report for the first half of 1997, African-Americans and Latinos filed 78 percent of complaints against the police. The police force is 68 percent white. During the independent CCRB’s first three-and-a-half years, only 1 percent of all cases disposed of led to the disciplining of a police officer, and out of 18,336 complaints, there have been just one dismissal of an officer stemming from a CCRB-substantiated case.
If the studies by civil rights groups and the Mollen Commission are any indication, officers who commit abuses are not being dealt with adequately. In that incident, after protesters allegedly threw items at mounted police officers attempting to clear the park, police reacted by beating anyone nearby with their nightsticks, including uninvolved restaurant patrons and business owners. In the end, administrative charges were presented in seventeen cases, with officers disciplined in thirteen of them. Officers primarily from the 30th, 9th, 46th, 75th and 73rd precincts were caught selling drugs and beating suspects.
Concluded Cawley, “They residents hate the police. You’d hate the police too if you lived there. “What emerged was a picture of how everyday brutality corrupted relations among police officers and city residents. Officer Michael Dowd testified, “Brutality is a form of acceptance. It’s the other officers begin to accept you more.
” In reaction to the Mollen Commission report, then-Police Commissioner William Bratton stated that if officers behaved properly, he would back them absolutely, but if they used unnecessary force, “all bets are off. ” The police unions continue to oppose stricter disciplinary measures and the commission’s call for changes in the police union’s response to allegations of corruption and brutality, such as emphasizing integrity, reportedly have not been heeded. There is often a racial or ethnic component to police abuse cases in New York City, with many incidents also fueled by language barriers and miscommunication in the diverse city. In the CCRB’s January – June 1997 report, African-Americans and Latinos filed more than 78 percent of complaints against the police, while 67 percent of the subject officers were white.
Minority-group activists claimed that the shooting demonstrated racial bias because the white officer assumed the black officer was a criminal. In May 1997, a grand jury declined to indict the officers. When former New York Mayor David Dinkins supported an independent civilian complaint review board in September 1992, police protested violently and engaged in actions, according to a police department report, that were “unruly, mean-spirited and perhaps criminal. ” An officers’ protest, sponsored by the police union, involved thousands of officers demonstrating at City Hall, blocking traffic to the Brooklyn Bridge, and shouting racial epithets; current Mayor Rudolph Giuliani participated in the protest. Some officers involved in the protest’s offensive acts were disciplined, and the police commissioner stated that the nature of the demonstration “raised serious questions about the department’s willingness and ability to police it’s self.
” As police were leaving the protest, several off-duty officers, all in civilian clothes, assaulted a man on the subway who had stepped on one of the officer’s feet. Six officers then reportedly beat and kicked him, and he suffered a broken jaw; several witnesses went directly to the police station to complain. In July 1993, the CCRB was reorganized and made independent from the police department. The CCRB publishes reports with statistical data on the number, type and disposition of complaints. CCRB staff report that they engage in extensive community outreach to inform residents of their .