Eight cops were fired last year for domestic violence, a top police official testified Thursday at a City Council hearing on police discipline and oversight.
The officers were among 156 cops who were fired or forced to leave the department for various offenses, from 2014 through 2018, according to Assistant Chief Matthew Pontillo.
A report released last week by a panel that was asked by the NYPD to examine how the department polices its members said punishments for cops accused of domestic violence are too light. The panel included former Manhattan U.S. Attorney Mary Jo White, former Brooklyn U.S. Attorney Robert Capers and former Brooklyn Federal Judge Barbara Jones.
City Councilman Donovan Richards (D-Queens), chair of the Public Safety Committee, said the panel noted that eight domestic violence allegations had been filed against one officer. Two were substantiated before he was fired.
“This is why there is such a lack of trust when it comes to the way the NYPD disciplines its officers,” Richards said.
First Deputy Police Commissioner Benjamin Tucker, in prepared remarks, defended the department’s disciplinary process as one that “holds officers accountable for misconduct and punishes guilty officers appropriately.”
“But,” he said, “it is crucially important that the public believes it, too.”
The NYPD and the City Council believe that can only happen with greater transparency, and that a state law standing in the way needs to be amended.
A good chunk of the cases cited by Pontillo played out in secrecy because of a section of New York State’s civil rights law — 50-a — that prevents the public release of information about police disciplinary actions unless ordered by a judge.
The NYPD released such records for 40 years, then changed course in 2016, saying it was unaware it had been violating the law.
While Thursday’s hearing was to discuss several bills that require the NYPD, among other things, to disclose more information about misconduct cases, it quickly turned into a lengthy discussion of 50-a, and then moved on to Officer Daniel Pantaleo, the Staten Island cop who has been accused of using a banned chokehold in the 2014 death of Eric Garner.
A grand jury voted not to indict Pantaleo.
The results of a federal probe into the highly publicized incident have not yet been released, but Pantaleo faces a departmental trial in May.
“Why has it taken four years, why has it taken so long, for Daniel Pantaleo…to be brought to departmental trial?” Council Speaker Corey Johnson asked during an exchange with Tucker. “It feels like the process is broken if it takes this long.”
Tucker agreed the process has taken too much time.
The NYPD had previously said it would honor a request by the Department of Justice to delay its case until federal investigators said they could proceed.
Tucker reiterated the NYPD’s support of an amendment to 50-a, but he said it should not be repealed because its original intent, to protect cops from harassment and threats, is still very much an issue.
Last year, 154 officers were threatened, he said, and 151 were threatened in 2017.
Tucker said the threats involved officers whose names had appeared in the media.