The New York Police Department has violated civil rights and privacy by wrongfully searching some homes, according to a report by the city’s police watchdog agency.
A review of 180 civilian complaints out of 1,762 substantiated by the Civilian Complaint Review Board during the past five years found the searches occurred for two main reasons: Either the officer misunderstood legal standards that allow police to enter a home, or old warrants were used, according to the report released late Monday.
The review found that nearly half the substantiated complaints were in Brooklyn, and more than half were the homes of black residents. The cases involved 263 officers out of the more than 35,000 that make up the nation’s largest police force. In addition to wrongful searches, the review board also found instances of offensive language, discourtesy and excessive force.
The review board recommended new training on how to conduct legal searches.
The department said it was aware of the report and reviewing it, but noted that substantiated cases represented only a fraction of the search warrants executed. In cases it has reviewed so far, it has imposed discipline in 64 percent.
The head of the watchdog agency, Richard Emery, has been recently under scrutiny because his law firm, Emery Celli Brinkerhoff & Abady, represents some clients suing the city whose complaints against the NYPD were substantiated by the civilian review board. The cases were taken before Emery became chairman of the agency, though some are still being litigated.
Emery said Monday his firm will no longer take on new cases of that nature.
“So long as I remain chair of the Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB), my firm will not represent a client who filed a claim that was substantiated by the CCRB while I was chair,” he said. “While I am chair of the CCRB, my firm will not accept a case against an officer, if I served on a panel of the CCRB which substantiated an allegation against that officer.”
The agency investigates claims of misconduct by police, but the NYPD has the final say on whether discipline is imposed.