Department of Justice, which prohibits employees from participating in an investigation or prosecution of a person with whom they have a personal, familial, or political relationship.[126]


The Panel did not identify obvious evidence of systematic bias or favoritism. Nevertheless, because of data limitations, the Panel cannot determine the level of consistency in the Commissioner’s disciplinary decisions. It is also clear that there is significant suspicion and speculation by the public that disciplinary decisions are not always fair, evenhanded, and consistent. The Panel therefore recommends that the Department study and consider adopting a disciplinary matrix to help guide the Commissioner in exercising his broad discretion and to address public perceptions and misgivings about the disposition of cases and the imposition of appropriate penalties.[127]

The Patrol Guide already offers limited guidelines for penalties with respect to certain offenses. For instance, Patrol Guide § 203-04 stipulates that dismissal is the presumptive penalty for the misuse of a firearm while unfit for duty due to excessive alcohol consumption. But the Patrol Guide provides for a presumptive penalty for only a handful of violations. What is needed is a more comprehensive, stand-alone framework governing all disciplinary cases, or at least for the most serious charges.

The Panel notes that several large city police departments have successfully implemented disciplinary matrices that may serve as useful models.[128] The Panel is aware that the NYPD has considered the implementation of a matrix in the past, and strongly urges the Department to develop and adopt a nonbinding disciplinary matrix and launch a pilot program to test its efficacy. The Panel believes the Department will benefit from implementing a matrix for at least three reasons.

First, even the perception of favoritism or systematic bias can undermine confidence in the legitimacy of the disciplinary system in the eyes of Department personnel and the public. Indeed, recent studies have found that disciplinary matrices may increase perceived organizational support for police departments among police officers.[129] Further, a disciplinary

[126] See generally 28 C.F.R. § 45.2.

[127] The Panel did not review, more generally, whether the penalties the Department imposes for specific offenses are appropriate to accomplish the goals of the disciplinary system. The Panel recommends that the Department undertake such a review as it considers the adoption of a disciplinary matrix.

[128] See, e.g., Los Angeles Police Department, Penalty Guide and Penalty Assessment Factors (Sept. 15, 2016), available at; Denver Police Department, Discipline Handbook: Conduct Principles and Disciplinary Guidelines Appendix F (May 3, 2018), available at

[129] See Paul D. Reynolds & Richard C. Helfers, Do Disciplinary Matrices Moderate the Effects of Prior Disciplinary Actions on Perceived Organizational Support (POS) Among Police Officers?, 20(4) Int’l J. Police Sci. & Mgmt. 272 (2018).