be stationed in the trial room to figure out when cases are called is disrespectful to stakeholders and a waste of their resources. Publication of calendars would make the openness of the trial room much more useful.
The Department should also take steps to ensure that those harmed by police use of force have an accessible and respectful avenue to obtain disciplinary case information. The Panel heard from multiple constituents that obtaining such information is difficult and the process is demeaning. The Panel sees value in the appointment of a management-level executive dedicated to providing one-on-one attention to persons seeking information in these situations. A thoughtful, assertive, and dedicated executive in this role would provide much-needed sensitivity and understanding to victims and family members who currently do not have a sympathetic and dedicated ear in the Department. The Department would benefit as well. As things currently stand, victims and family members are left to learn about the NYPD disciplinary process in a haphazard fashion—through some combination of plaintiffs’ attorneys, criminal defense attorneys, community groups, and their own research. The creation of the liaison role would let the NYPD tell that story itself.
The Panel understands that the scope of the liaison’s substantive work will necessarily be circumscribed by § 50–a. But even in the absence of § 50–a reform, the liaison can explain the steps of the process, confirm dates of trials or other relevant events, update individuals on a case’s progress through those stages, and make an informed estimate as to when the case may be decided by the Police Commissioner. In the final analysis, the Panel believes that the positive message conveyed simply by the allocation of respectful senior personnel and resources to the liaison role is itself important.
The exercise of unfettered discretion has the potential to result in inconsistent outcomes, favoritism, and excessive leniency. The Panel believes, however, that the Commissioner, who is responsible and accountable for the performance of every member of the NYPD, is also uniquely positioned to evaluate discipline. However, against the backdrop of longstanding public concerns about the transparency of the disciplinary process and the legal obstacles to improving transparency, the Commissioner’s unfettered discretion over disciplinary matters imposes a heightened responsibility on him to enhance public transparency and his own accountability for the decisions he makes. There are a number of steps the Commissioner can take.
First, the Panel recommends that the Commissioner prepare variance memoranda in all disciplinary cases where he departs from a disciplinary recommendation—whether in a DAO or CCRB prosecution, a DCT trial or a settlement, and regardless of whether the departure is upward or downward. Such memoranda are currently required only in cases prosecuted by CCRB, tried by DCT, and where the Commissioner departs downwards. While the settlement process does not afford an officer all of the procedural protections afforded by a trial, in changing the disposition of a settled case, the Commissioner is substituting his judgment for an outcome negotiated and agreed to by the parties. The parties and others involved in the