In her first full year as commissioner of the New York Police Department, Keechant Sewell rejected more than half of the disciplinary recommendations made by an independent civilian panel, a far higher rejection rate than her predecessors', the New York Times reports. In 2022, Sewell closed based many of the rejections on NYPD's argument that the review board didn't give the department enough time to act before a state deadline. In 2018, Commissioner James P. O’Neill imposed discipline in 83 percent of the cases in which the board recommended it. In 2021, under Commissioner Dermot F. Shea, the rate was 80 percent. Sewell took office in December 2021 under newly elected mayor and NYPD veteran Eric Adams, who had campaigned on a promise to take police accountability seriously. Commissioner Sewell’s rejections “threaten to create resentment among members of the communities the NYPD serves,” the Legal Aid Society said in a letter to Adams that called on him to "tackle the NYPD's longstanding culture of impunity."
The board received a record number of allegations of police misconduct in 2022. Arva Rice, chairwoman of the Civilian Complaint Review Board, said in a statement that the recommended penalties followed a matrix developed by the Police Department. “Our board diligently reviews the underlying evidence of every fully investigated complaint,” she said. “We stand behind every case where the board found misconduct and recommended discipline.” The accusations, which involved about 330 officers, included infractions such as inordinate use of force and abuse of authority, like failing to provide a badge number or wrongly threatening arrest. The board’s disciplinary recommendations ranged from verbal reprimands to the loss of up to 10 vacation days, according to the Legal Aid Society, which analyzed the dismissed cases and planned to release its findings on Thursday. In more than 340 cases, Commissioner Sewell’s administration decided against discipline on the grounds that the Civilian Complaint Review Board had informed the department too close to the state’s deadline for imposing discipline, according to both the board and the Police Department. But in many of those cases, the department had 20 to 50 days to decide on discipline, said Corey Stoughton, the lawyer in charge of law reform at the Legal Aid Society. Patrick Lynch, president of the Police Benevolent Association, said the commissioner was “pushing back” against meritless allegations that had become a “major factor” in driving officers from the department. “C.C.R.B. has been harvesting as many nonsensical complaints as it can and hammering cops with frivolous disciplinary recommendations,” he said in a statement.