Phillips & Associates

Civilian Complaint Review Board

Legal Guidance for Victims of Police Misconduct in New York City

Police misconduct, in the form of excessive force, abuse of authority, discourtesy, or offensive language, may be terrifying for civilians. At Phillips & Associates, we take our clients' civil rights seriously. One of the ways to effect positive change in how the police handle their investigations and arrests is to report misconduct. Filing a complaint with the Civilian Complaint Review Board can be a useful tool in seeking recourse after experiencing police misconduct in New York City. However, you may also want to consult a civil rights attorney, particularly if you are a criminal defendant. Your statements to the CCRB can be used against you in a criminal case or adversely affect a civil case for damages.

What is the Civilian Complaint Review Board?

Established in 1993 under Chapter 18-A of the New York City Charter, the Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB) is a New York City agency that handles complaints about police misconduct. The agency is able to take complaints, investigate, mediate, hear, make findings, and recommend that certain actions be taken on complaints against police officers. Findings are forwarded to the police commissioner. The staff is made up of civilians and is independent from the police department. The agency has subpoena power.

Complaints to the CCRB are organized as claims about force, authority abuses, discourtesy, or offensive language. Force claims are those relating to excessive force. This is conduct not justified by the situation, such as punching or shooting a civilian or using pepper spray. Abuse of authority claims refer to when police abuse their powers to intimidate or mistreat a civilian, such as by improperly stopping and frisking or improperly searching a vehicle. Offensive language claims refer to slurs, gestures, and derogatory remarks based on race, religion, ethnicity, gender, physical disability, or sexual orientation. Discourtesy, such as use of foul language or gestures, by a police officer can also be reported.

How does the complaint process work? After you make a complaint, it is turned over to an investigative team. You will be asked to give an in-person statement. Although most of these interviews are conducted at the CCRB office, in cases of hardship, the investigator can travel to you. You will be asked to provide detailed descriptions, including physical descriptions and badge numbers of the police officers involved and the contact information for any witnesses. You will also be asked to sign a verification form to confirm the accuracy and truthfulness of your statements during the interview.

The CCRB will interview the names of witnesses you provide. It can then use its subpoena powers to look at your medical records and police department records. Typically, the police officers whose conduct is at issue will also be interviewed as soon as possible. Once the investigation is complete, a three-member panel will review the case and vote on allegations of the complaint. Determination of whether there was misconduct is based on a preponderance of the evidence standard.

An attorney with the CCRB's Administrative Prosecution Unit can prosecute cases when the board recommends this action. This prosecution is reserved for very serious incidents.

Contact a New York City Attorney after a Civil Rights Violation

The New York State Civil Service Law requires that police officers that are subject to allegations of misconduct be served with disciplinary charges within 18 months of the misconduct. If you are subject to police misconduct, it may be prudent to file a complaint with the Civilian Complaint Review Board. In some circumstances, however, your case may be more appropriate for a lawsuit, or you may be able to do both. At Phillips & Associates, our civil rights lawyers offer experienced representation for New York City residents from Staten Island and Manhattan to Brooklyn and Queens. Call us at (212) 248-7431 or contact us through our online form.

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