system should also be able to track the progress of cases through each phase in the disciplinary process, provide automatic alerts to users when a case has not progressed within appropriate timeframes, and require users to explain the delay and estimate when the case will progress. The Panel further recommends that the Department dedicate additional IT resources to RMB, sufficient to enable the Bureau to identify and monitor additional risk factors, beyond those currently tracked by RMB.
The Panel was unable to conduct a systematic audit of disciplinary outcomes due in part to limitations in the Department’s data collection and maintenance practices. The Panel believes that such an analysis is necessary to dispel perceptions that the disciplinary system is inherently unfair or biased and will help the Department achieve more consistent disciplinary outcomes. The Panel, therefore, recommends that the Department retain an external expert to conduct periodic audits of the disciplinary system in order to ensure that it is functioning fairly and efficiently. The Department could significantly benefit from such a review.
Because the disciplinary system is largely internal to the Department, it is important for the Department to receive periodic reports from an external entity with an independent perspective. Such robust statistical analysis would increase accountability by providing a review of disciplinary outcomes across different categories of comparison to ensure that the system is free from inherent bias. An independent auditor would assist the Department in identifying trends in police misconduct, enforcement, and discipline, thereby allowing it to course-correct, enhance training, and improve efficacy. Finally, the results of periodic audits would inform the Department in adopting a disciplinary matrix, as the Panel has recommended.
The Panel commends Commissioner O’Neill for appointing an independent panel to conduct a review of the Department’s disciplinary system, and we are honored to have been asked to serve as its members. External review can help an agency make improvements, but many executives are reluctant to let outsiders in to look. Commissioner O’Neill not only let us in, but also gave us full access to the information that was needed to conduct our review.
Most everyone we spoke with recognized the difficult and dangerous work that police officers do every day and agreed that the New York City Police Department does it best. But every Department member must be held to high standards by an exacting and fair disciplinary system if the Department is to maintain its strength and integrity, both in fact and in the eyes of the public it serves.
When an officer uses excessive force, engages in an unjustified stop and frisk, is disrespectful to a citizen, shades the truth in court, or otherwise abuses his or her authority, the entire Department is tainted and diminished. When that happens the Commissioner must hold the officer strictly accountable. Just as importantly, the Commissioner must be transparent with the public to demonstrate that the Department’s disciplinary system is effective and fair—that discipline is handed out consistently and without favor.