BuzzFeed News published an expose Monday based on information garnered from filtering through hundreds of pages of secret international NYPD files that were leaked to the news organization by an anonymous source. The file content was fact-checked by making more than 100 phone calls, interviewing prosecutors, reviewing court records and even visiting officers' homes.
At least 50 staffers allegedly lied on official reports or under oath and 38 were found guilty of using excessive force by an internal police tribunal. In addition, 57 staffers were found guilty of driving under the influence of alcohol and 71 were charged with ticket-fixing, a practice in which public officials dismiss or destroy traffic tickets to help family members or friends. One officer even threatened to kill someone, while another sexually harassed a fellow officer. At least 24 of the staffers were allegedly involved in harassing students or selling drugs in schools.
According to BuzzFeed, one officer in the Bronx was accused of atrociously beating a man with his police baton after the victim verbally insulted him in 2009. The man ended up with a deep wound that required 12 staples to close. The same officer was also accused of wrongly arresting another individual, assaulting a third and falsifying evidence against a fourth. In response to his actions, the officer was forced to forgo 45 vacation days. However, he remains on patrol, earning close to $120,000 a year.
In fact, all of the cops who faced disciplinary hearings for their actions were allowed to keep their jobs at their regular salaries, only being assigned "dismissal probations" by police commissioners, making them ineligible for promotion. However, that probation period usually lasted for only a year, according to the documents. Bill Bratton and Ray Kelly were named as the NYPD commissioners between 2011 and 2015.
According to BuzzFeed, the documents were kept out of the public record through the use of a state law to protect "personal records."
New York is one of only three states, along with Delaware and California, that has such a law allowing police misconduct records to remain hidden from the public.
"The department is not interested in terminating officers that don't need to be terminated. We're interested in keeping employees and making our employees obey the rules and do the right thing," Kevin Richardson, deputy commissioner of the department advocate's office, told BuzzFeed News in a recent statement.
"But where there are failing that we realize this person should be separated from the department, this police commissioner and the prior police commissioner have shown a willingness to do that," he added.
Richardson also added that since he joined the department in 2014, he has tried to improve the process by reassessing the penalties given to officers guilty of misconduct.