Just a Dozen of 89 NYPD Officers Responsible for Serious Misconduct During 2020 BLM Protests Have Been Disciplined
Report from Civilian Complaint Review Board sums up consequences of 321 investigations, many for improper use of force.
More than two and a half years after the NYPD’s at times violent response to the 2020 George Floyd protests, just 12 of 89 officers charged with significant misconduct by a civilian oversight board have been disciplined, according to a new report.
The Civilian Complaint Review Board released dozens of its investigative recommendations for officer discipline in a 590-page review made public Monday, which says the agency fielded over 750 complaints containing more than 2,000 allegations regarding police misconduct during the weeks of protest.
CCRB investigators fully probed 321 of those complaints and substantiated allegations of serious misconduct against 89 police officers and supervisors, many for improper use of force.
Of them, 62 are still winding through the NYPD’s internal disciplinary process, which may include an administrative trial overseen by the police department and ultimately concludes when the NYPD commissioner decides on the outcome.
Thus far, NYPD Commissioner Keechant Sewell and her predecessor, Dermot Shea, imposed no discipline on nine officers — even before an administrative trial could be held. The CCRB had sought a minimum penalty of 10 vacation days’ loss in each of the cases.
An additional five officers were spared discipline through retirement or resignation, while one case was shelved after surpassing the statute of limitations.
The CCRB investigates complaints by civilians against police that include use of force, abuse of authority, discourtesy and offensive language, and handles the administrative prosecution of the most serious cases its investigators substantiate.
Interim board chair Arva Rice said the agency found patterns of misconduct in its investigation of individual incidents — including dozens of instances of baton strikes, use of pepper spray and other types of physical force that violated NYPD guidelines.
“Protests against police brutality bred more instances of police misconduct,” she wrote in an introduction to the report. “If this misconduct goes unaddressed, it will never be reformed.”
Some police interactions with protesters that were caught on video drew widespread condemnation on social media, including officers driving police SUV’s forward into a group of protesters in Brooklyn on May 30, 2020, and a burly officer forcefully shoving a 20-year-old woman to the pavement near Barclays Center a day earlier.
Both cases are among the 62 where the CCRB recommended significant discipline but the outcome is still pending.
The board also recommended less serious discipline for a separate group of 57 officers and supervisors that were found to have violated department guidelines.
In the report, the CCRB highlighted obstacles to its probes, such as officers who purposefully obscured their names and badges during the protests. The NYPD also failed to consistently keep track of where its personnel were assigned, according to the findings.
As a result of these and other obstacles, more than 600 allegations of misconduct — 43% of the total investigated — were closed because the officer couldn’t be identified.
CCRB officials also complained about delays in obtaining body-worn camera footage from the NYPD, with the department withholding video the board sought while sending vast quantities of irrelevant footage.
NYPD officials said they plan to issue a response to the report this week.
Lost Vacation Days
Of the 12 officers and supervisors who have been disciplined thus far, the highest penalty went to former Bronx Lt. Eric Dym for allegedly using his nightstick as a club during the June 4, 2020, protests in Mott Haven, The Bronx.
He was docked 15 vacation days as part of a wider plea deal, as THE CITY has reported.
Dym, who retired last year after accumulating the highest number of complaints substantiated by the CCRB against an active NYPD member, has previously taken issue with the CCRB’s methods and motives.
He told THE CITY on Friday that the settlement was excessive and that he had wanted to take the case to administrative trial, but was told that would take two to three years.
Dym noted that the CCRB deemed his use of force partially justified in the same investigation and that no victims came forward to complain, but said a photo snapped of him on top of a car wielding a baton hurt his case.
“My intention was to take that to department trial, and I’m confident I would have won that case or had that case minimized in discipline,” he said. “I do think it was an excessive amount of discipline.”
In other disciplinary outcomes, one NYPD officer was docked 11 vacation days and five officers were docked 10 days — including Michael Sher.
As THE CITY previously reported, Sher was penalized the 10 days not for pulling down the facemask of protester Andrew Smith and pepper-spraying him in the eyes, but rather for failing to fill out paperwork indicating that he had done so.
Mayor Eric Adams last year highlighted the incident as one of the three from the protests that he considered “horrific.”
“To pull down the mask of a person, and mace them in that manner, really violated the trust,” Adams said in late August. “There was no reason for that officer to carry that out.”
Of the remaining five officers disciplined to date, each was docked five vacation days or fewer, the report said.
A number of oversight entities released reports following the 2020 protests that raised significant concerns about the police response — particularly the widespread use of force — and tactics, including the corralling and mass arrests of protesters.
This includes the office of state Attorney General Letitia James — who filed a lawsuit against the NYPD in 2021 charging then Mayor Bill de Blasio and Shea with deliberately failing to prevent officers from using prohibited tactics against protesters— and the city’s Department of Investigation, which called for major reforms to the NYPD’s response to protests. James’ lawsuit is ongoing in Manhattan federal court.
Similarly, the CCRB wrote that its investigations “revealed that the forceful suppression of the protests occurred at the direction of high-level borough supervisors, such as Assistant Chief Kenneth Lehr of the Bronx borough command, Bureau Chief Jeffrey Maddrey of the Brooklyn borough command, and various heads of precincts.”
Maddrey has since been promoted under the Adams administration to Chief of Department — the top uniformed post.
In December, according to the New York Post, Sewell said in an internal memo that the NYPD plans to amend its disciplinary matrix, a system that outlines recommended penalties for misconduct, to be less punitive.
She noted that in 2022 she overruled the disciplinary outcomes sought by the CCRB in over 70 cases, citing unfair determinations.
“In some of the cases, bad intent to officers was imputed when none was present, or situations were misinterpreted,” she wrote.
The matrix was first implemented by the department in early 2021, following pressure from the City Council to beef up police discipline.
The NYPD and CCRB have a memorandum of understanding regarding using the matrix as a framework for discipline, but it allows for annual reviews by both sides.