The Panel was also informed that nearly all final decision-making authority in DAO rests with the Department Advocate. It is not shared with his executive staff. Thus, although DAO executive staff is able to provide recommendations as to how cases should be charged and which penalties are applicable, the Department Advocate has directed that he review and provide final approval for each disciplinary case in which Charges and Specifications are recommended. He believes that his approval better assures consistency and enhances quality control.
As one would expect, centralization creates bottlenecks that contribute to delay. The impact of this centralization in slowing the disciplinary process is most apparent in the delays in settlement cases. More than three quarters of DAO cases are resolved by settlement, all of which must be personally approved by the Department Advocate.
Excessive centralization also causes delay in the reconsideration process. As noted above, DAO must inform CCRB of any reconsideration requests within 30 days of receipt of CCRB’s proposed charges. The Panel was told that reconsideration memoranda are often prepared by DAO staff weeks before the deadline, but wait months for the Department Advocate to approve them. As a result, it is not uncommon for CCRB to reject the reconsideration request as untimely, which slows an already cumbersome process.
It bears noting that delays in the reconsideration process also occur at CCRB. There is no deadline by which CCRB must respond to a DAO reconsideration request, and no deadline often results in delayed decision making. Unnecessary delay is particularly problematic in cases involving less serious offenses that could result in more prompt Command Discipline, because Command Discipline cannot proceed until CCRB has responded to a reconsideration request.
Notably, DAO previously used a “fast-track” program for certain reconsideration requests. This expedited process allowed a supervisor at DAO to approve charges from CCRB where there was agreement between CCRB and DAO that low-level discipline, such as Command Discipline Schedule A or instructions, was warranted. The Panel was told, however, that the current Department Advocate has ended the CCRB fast-track program and directed that he personally approve all disciplinary recommendations made by CCRB, including low-level penalties such as instructions.
An issue repeatedly brought to the Panel’s attention is the Department’s handling of cases in which an officer is accused of making a false statement in the course of his or her duties. Critics of the NYPD contend that the Department fails to treat false statement allegations with the seriousness that they deserve. The issues raised with the Panel included the way in which false statements are charged within the disciplinary system, the circumstances in which this
 The Panel understands that CCRB and DAO are considering implementation of a 90-business-day deadline for CCRB to respond to requests for reconsideration.