Police Practices and Civil Rights in New York City

Chapter 1


[W]hatever gains we have achieved in fighting crime are minimized if the price is the trust and respect of the community we serve. If crime levels decline, but members of the community are reluctant to approach police for fear of a negative encounter, then we have not truly met our obligations to the public.[1]

New York City is the largest metropolis in the United States. It is the center of world finance, business, and communications and the headquarters of the United Nations. There are more than 200 museums and 400 art galleries that provide a mecca for history and art lovers. New York City is the literary and publishing center for the nation and the quintessential venue for the performing arts. In essence, the city offers all of the trappings of a world-class city. However, this world-class city has recently been subject to mass demonstrations and racial strife because of a widespread belief that New York City police officers too often abuse their authority.

New, more aggressive police strategies have resulted in what appears to be an ever-widening divide between the city’s residents of color and the New York City Police Department (NYPD). According to New York police officials, the use of deadly force by the city’s police officers occurs less in New York than in other major cities, when measured in terms of fatal shootings per 1,000 officers. However, in the past 13 months, four unarmed men, three of them black, have been killed by New York City police officers.[2] There have also been complaints that residents of color are stopped more often than white residents on suspicion of committing a crime. While the NYPD has managed to reduce crime dramatically over the past 6 years, critics believe that it has been at the expense of residents’ civil rights. 

Part of the allure of New York City is the tremendous diversity of its residents. Unlike many Asian and European cities, where the population tends to have a common ethnicity, religion, and culture, New York is a city of migrants and immigrants. The police force must respect the attributes of the city’s residents, so that residents, in turn, will respect the police and the laws that they seek to uphold. The police manual on the 1996 police strategy, Courtesy, Professionalism and Respect (CPR), offers the following objective: “To live up to our reputation as ‘New York’s Finest,’ it is imperative that we do not lose sight of the fact that law enforcement is a service profession. We must be constantly cognizant that we owe it to the communities we serve to treat every citizen with the same courtesy, professionalism, and respect we would expect to receive.”[3] 

On May 26, 1999, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights conducted a factfinding hearing in New York City to examine police practices and civil rights. The Commission determined that a hearing should be held in New York City in the wake of the highly publicized tragedies involving Abner Louima and Amadou Diallo. Mr. Louima, a Haitian immigrant, was sodomized with a toilet plunger by an NYPD officer in August 1997. Mr. Diallo, an immigrant from Guinea, died when hit by 19 of 41 bullets fired by four plainclothes officers in February 1999. While the Commission recognized the potential impact these cases would have on this hearing, the purpose of the hearing was to examine current police practices in New York City and their impact on civil rights. Specifically, the Commission examined the procedures for establishing and maintaining standards of police conduct and the manner in which they are monitored. The Commission also investigated the city’s policies and programs for recruiting and training cadets and officers and the NYPD’s treatment of officers and residents of color.

In its 1981 report Who Is Guarding the Guardians? the Commission emphasized that the responsibility of law enforcement officials to preserve the peace and enforce the law “carries with it the power to arrest and to use force—even deadly force. It is essential, therefore, that these sweeping powers be subject to constant scrutiny to ensure that they are not abused.”[4]

The Commission has previously addressed the issue of police practices in a number of areas, including Chicago, Sonoma County, and the Mt. Pleasant area of Washington, D.C., in recent years. Just in the last year, the Commission published a report of its investigation into the resurgence of racial and ethnic tensions within and between law enforcement and the communities it serves in Los Angeles.[5] That report supports the crucial work of police in reducing crime and at the same time makes clear the important need for the community to know that the police will not violate civil rights. In sum, the Commission’s current interest in police practices and civil rights in New York City is a continuation of its long history of concern with these issues and its desire to promote a world-class police force for this diverse metropolis. 

Overview of New York City 

Size and Geography

With a small portion of its land mass in the mainland, New York is a city of islands, covering a total area of 305.5 square miles. New York City comprises five boroughs, each of which constitutes a county of New York State: the Bronx (Bronx County), Brooklyn (Kings County), Manhattan (New York County), Queens (Queens County), and Staten Island (Richmond County). The city consists of Manhattan and Staten Island, a part of Long Island, and the southernmost tip of the mainland of New York State. It is situated at the junction of the Hudson and East Rivers with New York Bay, an arm of the Atlantic Ocean.

Government Structure

The city of New York is an incorporated municipality with specific governmental powers granted to it by the State of New York under the home-rule provisions of the state constitution and the New York State Municipal Home Rule Law.[6] New York City’s governmental organization is set forth in the City Charter[7] and in the city’s administrative code. Additionally, the city government exists on two levels, municipal and borough.

New York City has a strong mayoral form of government, with the mayor serving as the chief executive officer in the city. The current mayor, Rudolph Giuliani, first took office in 1994 (and was re-elected) and is empowered to appoint heads of city departments, members of commissions, judges of the criminal court, and other officers not elected by the people. The mayor has the power to veto local laws passed by the City Council. The 51-member City Council is “vested with the legislative power of the city.”[8] As such, the Council enacts the city budget and all local laws.[9] The Council consists of a president, who is elected on a citywide basis and  known as the New York City ombudsman and public advocate. Additionally, one council member is elected to represent each district  lying wholly within the city. Like the mayor, council members are elected for 4-year terms.[10] 

Each of the boroughs that make up the city elects a president as its executive officer to a 4-year term.[11] The main function of the borough president is to represent his or her borough in fiscal matters, and to advise on boroughwide planning.[12] Since the county and borough boundaries are coterminous, the same government serves both. Under the City Charter, borough presidents are authorized to (1) work with the mayor in preparing the annual executive budget submitted to the City Council, and to propose borough budget priorities directly to the Council; (2) review and comment on major land use decisions and propose sites for city facilities within their respective boroughs; (3) monitor and modify the delivery of city services within their boroughs; and (4) engage in strategic planning for their boroughs.[13] 


As of 1990, New York City was home to approximately 7.3 million persons, an increase of 3.5 percent since 1980.[14] This growth occurred because the positive natural increase of the population (number of births minus the number of deaths) outweighed the negative net migration (the number of persons who migrated to the city minus the number of persons who migrated out of the city).[15]

During the 1980s, the contemporaneous decline in the city’s white population and increase in its people of color population resulted in the latter becoming the majority of the population. Fifty-seven percent of New York City residents are people of color, with non-Hispanic whites comprising the remaining 43 percent of the population.[16] African Americans and Hispanics each constitutes roughly one-quarter of the population, and Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders comprise approximately 7 percent of the total population. The Hispanic and Asian American and Pacific Islander populations each experienced high rates of growth during the 1980s, with the Hispanic population growing by one-quarter, and the Asian American and Pacific Islander population more than doubling.[17] 

A salient feature of New York City’s demography is its large number of immigrants.[18] Of all New York City residents, 28 percent were born outside the United States.[19] Many are recent immigrants: between 1982 and 1991, almost 900,000 legal immigrants, or roughly 12 percent of the city’s entire population, came to New York City.[20] In addition, a vast majority of the approximate 500,000 undocumented immigrants, estimated by the Immigration and Naturalization Service to be residing in New York State, live in New York City.[21] Currently, a few cities in the country have a comparable percentage of immigrants, and only one, Miami, markedly surpasses New York in its share of foreign born.[22]  

New York’s immigrant population is not only notable for its size, but also its extreme heterogeneity.[23] New York is more ethnically diverse than any other immigrant city in the United States. Moreover, most of the various immigrant groups are represented in large numbers. New York draws immigrants from all regions of the world, although a significant share of the city’s foreign born come from the Caribbean. Six countries account for one-half of all recent legal immigrants to New York City: the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, China, Guyana, Haiti, and the Soviet Union. In fact, more than one-quarter of all recent immigrants come from the Dominican Republic and Jamaica alone.[24] 

New York City’s population is distributed across the five boroughs as follows: the Bronx, 16.4 percent; Brooklyn, 31.4 percent; Manhattan, 20.3 percent; Queens, 26.7 percent; and Staten Island, 5.2 percent.[25] The city’s African Americans, Hispanics, and Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are not evenly distributed across the boroughs. African Americans are concentrated in Brooklyn, which is home to more than 40 percent of African Americans in the city, but only 31 percent of all city residents. Hispanics are concentrated in the Bronx, where they constitute 44 percent of all residents, almost double their percentage in the city as a whole. Almost one-half of all Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders live in Queens, in comparison to about one-quarter of all city residents. Whites are overrepresented in Staten Island, where they make up four-fifths of the population, and are underrepresented in the Bronx.[26]

Similarly, immigrants are not distributed across New York’s boroughs in proportion to the city’s general population. Immigrants are one-third more likely than the average city resident to live in Queens, where immigrants make up 36 percent of the population. Immigrants are also overrepresented in Manhattan, the Bronx, and Staten Island, while they are underrepresented in Brooklyn.

Overview of the NYPD

The Department’s History

For more than 150 years, the NYPD has been steeped in a history of rich tradition. The development of a modern police force in New York City closely paralleled the general American historical experience. According to a historical overview presented on the NYPD’s official Web site, New York changed from the old constable system, which had policed New York since the days of the Dutch, to its modern police force by 1845.[27] The change occurred when the population of about 33,000 in 1790 grew to a metropolis of nearly  400,000 by 1845, presenting a new set of policing problems: growing slums, rising crime, and frequent rioting. These growing problems gave rise to a municipal police force in 1845. This new police force was based on the London model of a paramilitary organization with uniforms and a chain of command.[28] Police officers served 1- and 2-year appointments and often at the pleasure of politicians. 

The early years of the department, marked by dissension, division, corruption, and reform, represented a period of challenge to bring public order. In his 2 years as president, Theodore Roosevelt reformed the New York Police Commission and set the standard for the current administration of the NYPD. Beginning in 1895, he stripped away political considerations for the selection of recruits, opened up admission to the department to people of color, and hired the first woman. Today, the NYPD is  the largest  police department in the United States.


There are more than 38,000 uniformed officers of all ranks and approximately 9,000 civilians on the force.[29] The police commissioner, who heads the agency, is appointed to a 5-year term and reports directly to the mayor. The other top two officials are the first deputy commissioner, who is a civilian, and the chief of the department, the highest ranking uniformed member of the service. Included in the organizational structure of the NYPD are eight major bureaus: Patrol Services Bureau, Detective Bureau, Organized Crime Control Bureau, Transportation Bureau, Criminal Justice Bureau, Internal Affairs Bureau, Personnel Bureau, and Support Services Bureau. Under the Patrol Services Bureau, New York City’s five boroughs are divided into eight patrol borough commands, which are further subdivided into 76 precincts. Subways and large housing complexes are patrolled by 12 transit districts and nine housing police service areas.

New Police Strategies

In recent years, the NYPD has followed a strategy of aggressive policing with a focus on “quality of life” crimes.[30] These quality of life crimes, such as graffiti, squeegee windshield washing, and subway turnstile jumping, are pursued as a way to demonstrate control of the streets and to apprehend individuals who may have outstanding arrest warrants against them.[31] The department now boasts that “[this] targeted approach to crime prevention has made the City the safest it has been for nearly the past three decades, and the safest large city in the United States according to FBI statistics.”[32] Serious crime in New York City has declined dramatically following the introduction of new police strategies implemented in 1994. Preliminary figures for 1999 show a 54.7 percent reduction in major felony crime in New York City since 1993.[33] For the same period, the number of homicides in the city has dropped 65.4 percent, from 1,927 to 667, while shooting incidents have dropped by 66.7 percent, from 5,282 down to 1,760.[34]

Despite the decline in crime rates, a number of critics maintain that the NYPD has failed to balance aggressive policing with a respect for civil rights.[35] Statistics show that the number of civilian complaints against the police rose by 56 percent in 1994 and 1995, the 2 years following employment of the new policing strategies.[36] According to a review by Mark Green, public advocate for the City of New York,[37] of 283 cases of police misconduct substantiated by the Civilian Complaint Review Board, the NYPD has dismissed a majority of these complaints without further investigation.[38] In the cases where officers were disciplined, the punishment included loss of vacation days, temporary suspension, and, in one case, dismissal from the department.[39] 

Although civilian complaints did appear to increase with the introduction of new police tactics, they declined somewhat from their plateau in 1997.[40] In fact, a study conducted by the Vera Institute of Justice found that while there were citywide increases in civilian complaints following the change in police tactics, two precincts experienced major declines in crime reports.[41] In fact, these two South Bronx precincts used the same crime-fighting techniques as the rest of the police force while practicing respectful policing.[42] For example, the precincts’ commanding officers reinforce departmentwide training within their precincts and impose sanctions on those officers receiving civilian complaints.[43] 

There is often a racial or ethnic component to police misconduct complaints in New York City, with many incidents also fueled by language barriers and miscommunication. In the Civilian Complaint Review Board’s January–June 1997 report, African Americans and Latinos filed more than 78 percent of complaints against the police, and 67 percent of the subject officers were white.[44] In light of the many forces that may have conspired to drive up civilian complaints between 1993 and 1996, it is difficult to determine the primary cause of the increase in complaints.

Oversight of the NYPD

Civilian Complaint Review Board

In response to the increasing complaints of civil rights violations from residents, the NYPD has implemented various training programs to ensure that police recruits and veterans are educated in proper police conduct. In addition, there are several monitoring boards that are specifically charged to investigate police misconduct cases. The NYPD has its own monitoring programs, such as the Civilian Complaint Reduction program, which tracks officers who have accumulated multiple civilian complaints within a specified timeframe. In addition, there is the Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB), which is independent of the NYPD. The CCRB is staffed entirely by civilian investigators and is empowered to investigate and make recommendations on citizen complaints against law enforcement officers.

In the past, various commissions and task forces have been created to address specific police concerns. In response to the public outrage surrounding the Louima case, Mayor Giuliani created a task force to examine police-community relations in the city and to make recommendations for improvements. Among the recommendations in the majority report were the elimination of the 48-hour delay allowed for officers under investigation to refrain from responding to questions related to their misconduct, enhanced screening of police recruits, and bi- or multilingual receptionists in precincts that have a large number of non-English-speaking residents.[45] 

Mollen Commission

The Mollen Commission was instrumental to uncovering serious police misconduct within the NYPD during the early 1990s. NYPD officers in several New York precincts were discovered selling drugs and beating suspects. This prompted then-mayor David Dinkins to appoint the Mollen Commission, headed by his former deputy mayor for criminal justice, Milton Mollen. During the commission hearings held in 1993–1994, police officers testified that they had formed a vigilante squad for financial motives. The Mollen Commission Report, published in July 1994, described a flawed internal accountability system. It also detailed the nexus between police corruption and brutality and recommended a plan to combat both.[46] 

Federal Investigations and Trials 

There have been a number of high-profile cases involving New York police officers and residents of color that have stirred emotions and caused serious mistrust of the NYPD. The case involving Abner Louima shocked the nation, as this Haitian immigrant was allegedly beaten in a police car by four officers after being arrested outside a Brooklyn nightclub on August 9, 1997. When he got to the stationhouse, it was charged, two officers sexually assaulted him. Four of the officers, Justin Volpe, Thomas Bruder, Thomas Wiese, and Charles Schwarz, were charged with aggravated sexual abuse and first-degree assault for their participation in the attack on Louima. The fifth officer, Sergeant Michael Bellomo, who was the patrol supervisor the night of the attack on Louima, was charged with attempting to cover up the alleged assault. 

Originally, a state indictment was filed, but the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York ultimately prosecuted the case, adding federal civil rights and conspiracy charges. Two weeks before the jury reached its decision, former officer Justin Volpe pleaded guilty to sodomizing Mr. Louima with a toilet plunger. He was subsequently sentenced to 30 years in prison. Later, the jury panel of seven men and five women convicted Officer Charles Schwarz on two counts of violating Mr. Louima’s civil rights in the bathroom attack. The other named defendants, Thomas Wiese and Thomas Bruder, and Mr. Schwarz were acquitted of civil rights charges connected with the beating of Mr. Louima.[47] The jury also acquitted Sergeant Michael Bellomo of covering up the attack on Mr. Louima and the false arrest of a second man, Patrick Antoine. 

Following the August 1997 attack of Mr. Louima, then-U.S. attorney Zachary Carter launched a civil investigation of the NYPD. The purpose of the investigation is to determine whether incidents of excessive force were the product of systemic deficiencies in police operations, including possible failures of complaint intake and investigation, discipline, and supervision. The New York Times reported in July 1999 that “secret talks” regarding a possible settlement were taking place between the U.S. attorney’s office and Mayor Giuliani’s office.[48] Further, Mark Green, public advocate for the City of New York, wrote to Attorney General Janet Reno on August 18, 1997, asking to “direct the Civil Rights Division to commence an investigation, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 14141, of the New York City Police Department (‘NYPD’) to determine if it has engaged in a pattern of conduct that violates the legal and constitutional rights of New Yorkers.”[49]

To exacerbate the looming suspicion of the NYPD’s practices, another incident arose that resulted in the death of a West African immigrant, Amadou Diallo.[50] On February 4, 1999, the 22-year-old Mr. Diallo was approached by officers Kenneth Boss, Sean Carroll, Edward McMellon, and Richard Murphy of the Street Crime Unit in front of his Bronx apartment building.[51] The four police officers were scouring the neighborhood for a rape suspect and believed that Mr. Diallo fit the general description of the suspect. They also believed that he was acting suspiciously. The officers mistakenly believed that Mr. Diallo was reaching for a gun when they began shooting. The object Mr. Diallo was reaching for later turned out to be his wallet. Mr. Diallo had no prior criminal record and was not armed. 

On March 31, 1999, the four officers were charged with second-degree murder of Mr. Diallo.[52] The jury, consisting of four black women, one white woman, and seven white men, ultimately acquitted the four offices of all charges, including the lesser-included offenses of first-degree manslaughter or criminally negligent homicide, and reckless endangerment of bystanders. The acquittals have upset many people and divided the city further on issues of race, politics, and public safety. 

Following the acquittal of the four police officers charged with the shooting, the Justice Department announced that there will be a collaborative effort between its Civil Rights Division and the U.S. attorney for Manhattan, Mary Jo White, to determine whether there were any violations of the federal criminal civil rights laws. Deputy Attorney General Eric H. Holder, Jr., of the Department of Justice has cautioned that federal prosecutions after state trials happen only about once or twice a year.[53] Mr. Holder, however, indicated that the federal investigation of the facts would be conducted as thoroughly and expeditiously as possible.[54]

In light of the Amadou Diallo case, Attorney General Janet Reno has expanded the general investigation into police misconduct by the U.S. attorney in Brooklyn to include examination of the Street Crime Unit. The Street Crime Unit is an elite unit of plainclothes officers tasked to “hot spots” of concentrated criminal activity. The unit’s “mission” is to “effect the arrests of violent street criminals, with a particular emphasis on recovering illegal firearms.”[55] The new phase of the inquiry is to be conducted by the U.S. attorney in Manhattan. It will focus on whether members of the Street Crime Unit have systematically deprived minority citizens of their constitutional rights through stop and frisk tactics and other practices. Furthermore, in March 1999, New York State Attorney General Elliot Spitzer began a civil rights inquiry into the stop and frisk practices of the NYPD. The investigation preliminarily concluded (1) there is a strong statistical correlation between race and likelihood of being “stopped”; and (2) in one out of seven “stops” conducted by the NYPD, the facts articulated for making the “stop” failed to meet the legal threshold of “reasonable” suspicion.[56] 

The aforementioned trials and investigations illustrate that the allegations of police misconduct in the NYPD are an important issue that warrants further examination. The Commission is committed to investigating police conduct to provide meaningful discourse on the duty of law enforcement to enforce the laws while respecting the civil rights of individuals, and to proposing recommendations to meet these challenges. The remaining chapters of this report will discuss the following: (1) recruitment, selection, and training; (2) police-community relations; (3) monitoring of civilian complaints; and (4) stop and frisk, as they relate to the NYPD.

[1] New York City Police Department (NYPD), Courtesy Professionalism and Respect Handbook (hereafter cited as CPR Handbook), 1996, p. 1.

[2] David Barstow, “Antidrug Tactics Exact Price on Neighborhood, Many Say,” The New York Times, Apr. 1, 2000, p. A1.

[3] CPR Handbook, p. 1.

[4] U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, Who Is Guarding the Guardians? October 1981, Preface, p. v.

[5] U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, Racial and Ethnic Tensions in American Communities: Poverty, Inequality, and Discrimination, Volume V: The Los Angeles Report, May 1999.

[6] N.Y. Mun. Home Rule Law § 1 et seq. (McKinney 1994). 

[7] The current charter was most recently revised in 1989 and represents the most sweeping change in New York City government since the five boroughs were consolidated in 1898. The revisions came on the heels of a unanimous United States Supreme Court decision holding that the old Board of Estimate—composed of the mayor, the president of the City Council, and the comptroller (each having four votes), and the five borough presidents (each with two votes, despite disparities in the size of each borough)—and charged with playing a role with the Council in adopting the expense and capital budgets, controlling city property, and planning and zoning, violated the constitutional principle of “one person, one vote.” Board of Estimate of New York v. Morris, 489 U.S. 688, 689-703 (1989). The Board of Estimate was abolished in 1989 and its fiscal and planning authority transferred to the mayor, City Council, and other city officials. See New York City Charter, chap. 3 (Lenz & Riecker 1997).

[8] New York City Charter, chap. 3,  § 21.

[9] Ibid., §§ 28–31.

[10] Ibid., § 25a.

[11] Ibid., § 81b.

[12] Ibid., § 82.

[13] Ibid.

[14] Bureau of the Census, 1990 Census of Population, Social and Economic Characteristics: New York, 1990 CP-2-34, sec. 1, table 7; Bureau of the Census, 1980 Census of Population, General Social and Economic Characteristics: New York, PC80-1-C34 N.Y., sec. 1, table 59. This section rests heavily on data from the 1990 census of population. It should be noted that, like all cities with large people of color communities and undocumented populations, New York probably suffered a serious population undercount in the 1990 census. The city’s people of color and undocumented residents were the most likely to be undercounted. Therefore, what follows should be read with the awareness that the data most likely do not reflect the entirety of these populations.

[15] New York City, Department of City Planning, Population Division, Components of Population Change by Race and Hispanic Origin or Descent, 1980–1990: Population Change, Natural Increase, Net Migration, New York City by Borough, DCP 1990 #13 (May 10, 1991), table 1.

[16] 1990 Census, Social and Economic Characteristics: New York, table 7; 1980 Census, General Social and Economic Characteristics: New York, table 59.

[17] Ibid. 

[18] A distinction should be drawn between New York’s “new” immigrants and its “old” immigrants. New immigrants are usually considered to be those who have arrived since 1965, in contrast to old immigrants, who came in record numbers at the turn of the century. Moreover, old immigrants were overwhelmingly European, whereas today’s new arrivals come mainly from the third world, especially the West Indies, Latin America, and Asia. Nancy Foner, ed., “New Immigrants and Changing Patterns,” in New Immigrants in New York (New York: Columbia University Press, 1987), p. 2 (hereafter cited as Foner, New Immigrants). 

[19] Bureau of the Census, 1990 Census of Population and Housing, Summary Social, Economic, and Housing Characteristics: New York,  p. 51, table 2.

[20] New York City, Department of City Planning, Population Division, Estimates of Undocumented Aliens as of October 1992, Sept. 2, 1993, table 2 (hereafter cited as NYC Dept. of Planning, Undocumented Aliens). 

[21] Ibid.

[22] Ibid.

[23] Foner, New Immigrants, p. 6.

[24] NYC Dept. of Planning, Undocumented Aliens.

[25] Bureau of the Census, 1990 Census of Population and Housing, Summary Population and Housing Characteristics: New York, p. 107, table 4.

[26] Ibid.

[27] See <http://www.ci.nyc.ny.us/html/nypd/>.

[28] The modern municipal police organization began its development in England and the United States during the first three decades of the 19th century. In both countries the appearance of police departments as arms of civil authority paralleled the emergence of the city as a population center on a scale previously unknown. In England large urban disorders associated with protests over London’s food shortages and the economic turmoil of the 1820s led to passage of an act in 1829 to establish a police force. The act replaced the ad hoc use of the military with a regular, continuous police presence in all parts of London to ward off group violence by “dangerous classes.” The military had employed violent tactics to suppress riots, and it was a conscious purpose of the 1829 act to reduce the level of force required to deal with civil disorder. 

The American experience differs significantly. In this rough country of frontiersmen and immigrants, the police often had to maintain order and enforce the law by applying summary justice on the spot. This practice led to early justification of the use of force by police. 

[29] New York City Police Department Web site <http://www.ci.nyc.ny.us/html/nypd/html/whoweare.html>.

[30] See Allyson Collins and Human Rights Watch, Shielded from Justice: Police Brutality and Accountability in the United States (New York: Human Rights Watch, 1998) (hereafter cited as Human Rights Watch Report).

[31] Ibid.

[32] New York City Police Department Web site <http://www.ci.nyc.ny.us/html/nypd/>.

[33] Ibid. 

[34] Ibid.

[35] See Rusty Ray, “ACLU Warns of a Dark Side of NY Police Plan,” Philadelphia Inquirer, Dec. 16, 1997, p. B2. In the article, New York Civil Liberties Union director Norman Siegel warned of a “dark side” to the positive crime news in New York City: “The attitude seems to be that violating civil liberties is an effective trade-off for effective law enforcement.” 

[36] Human Rights Watch Report, Civilian Complaint Review Board section (citing CCRB Status Report, July–December 1994, p. 42). By 1998, however, the CCRB reported that civilian complaints against police officers had declined: allegations of unnecessary force decreased 22.2 percent from 1994 levels, allegations of discourtesy were down 13.3 percent from 1994, and allegations of offensive language decreased 39.1 percent from 1994. In contrast, allegations of abuse of authority increased 30.5 percent from 1994 to 1998. New York City Civilian Complaint Review Board, January–December 1998 Report, p. 1 (hereafter cited as CCRB Report, January–December 1998). 

[37] Under Section 24 of the Charter of the City of New York, the public advocate is the city’s ombudsman with the power to “review complaints of a recurring . . . nature relating to services and programs . . . of city agencies.” Elected by the voters of the city, the public advocate is first in line in succession to the mayor. 

[38] Mark Green, public advocate for the City of New York, Investigation of the New York City Police Department’s Response to Civilian Complaints of Police Misconduct, Interim Report, Sept. 15, 1999, p. iii.

[39] Ibid., pp. iv–v. 

[40] Robert C. Davis and Pedro Mateau-Gelabert, Vera Institute of Justice, Respectful and Effective Policing: Two Examples in the South Bronx, March 1999, p. 4.

[41] Ibid. 

[42] Ibid., Executive Summary. 

[43] Ibid. 

[44] See Human Rights Watch Report.

[45] Ibid. 

[46] Ibid., Background.

[47] On Mar. 6, 2000, following subsequent federal charges, former officers Schwarz, Wiese, and Bruder were found guilty of conspiracy to obstruct justice because they had claimed that Schwarz was not present during the attack on Mr. Louima. Schwarz was sentenced to 15b years in prison for his part in the conspiracy, while Wiese and Bruder each received a 5-year sentence.

[48] Benjamin Weiser, “Federal Inquiry Criticizes Police in New York City,” The New York Times, July 10, 1999, sec. A, p. 1.

[49] Mark Green, public advocate for the City of New York, to Attorney General Janet Reno, Department of Justice, Aug. 18, 1997.

[50] The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights sent a letter on Feb. 17, 1999, to Attorney General Janet Reno asking the Department of Justice (DOJ) to investigate the shooting death of Amadou Diallo. On Apr. 1, 2000, DOJ responded that the FBI had opened an investigation into this matter. In addition, the letter stated that the FBI and the U.S. attorney’s office in the Southern District in New York are assisting the Bronx County District Attorney’s Office in its ongoing investigation. Bill Lann Lee, acting assistant attorney general, Civil Rights Division, Department of Justice, to Mary Frances Berry, chairperson, U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, Apr. 1, 2000. 

[51] The Street Crime Unit (SCU) is an elite unit of plainclothes officers tasked to “hot spots” of concentrated criminal activity. The SCU’s “mission” is to “effect the arrests of violent street criminals, with a particular emphasis on recovering illegal firearms.” State of New York, Office of Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, The New York City Police Department’sStop & Frisk” Practices: A Report to the People of the State of New York from the Office of the Attorney General, 1999, p. 54, n. 32 (citing Statement of Police Commissioner Howard Safir before the New York City Council Public Safety Committee (Apr. 19, 1999)) (hereafter cited as OAG, Stop & Frisk Report).

[52] The case was alternately tried in Albany, New York, due to pretrial publicity, thus making it difficult to secure an impartial jury.

[53] Lorraine Adams and Petula Dvorak, “N.Y. Police Acquittals Protested,” The Washington Post, Mar. 3, 2000, p. B2.

[54] Ibid. 

[55] OAG, Stop & Frisk Report, p. 54.

[56] Ibid., p. 89. Not surprisingly, the NYPD objects to much of the analysis and conclusions in the attorney general’s report.