Bratton blasts inspector general who said NYPD use of force ‘a bit in the dark ages’

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MANHATTAN – A clearly-angry Police Commissioner Bill Bratton lashed out at the city’s inspector general who oversees the NYPD, when he heard about a comment Phillip Eure made during a press conference Thursday morning.

Eure and the Department of Investigation had released a report called “Police Use of Force in New York City: Findings and Recommendations on NYPD’s Policies and Practices.”

Eure told reporters, “The NYPD was living a bit in the dark ages, when it came to defining use of force.”

When Bratton heard about it at a later press conference, he retorted, “That’s an outrageous comment.  This department is not close to being in the ‘Dark Ages.’”

“If he said that, I expect an apology,” Bratton told PIX11.

Commissioner for the Department of Investigation Mark Peters, along with Inspector General Eure, published their 88-page report, after an investigation that began in January 2015.

It looked at use of force incidents in the NYPD between 2010 and 2014, mostly before Bill Bratton came back to New York City as police commissioner under Mayor Bill deBlasio.

The report recommended the NYPD establish a centralized “tracking” system for all uses of force, that it train officers on de-escalation tactics, and be more stringent in disciplining officers.

When Commissioner Bratton faced reporters Thursday afternoon, he said it was not in response to the DOI report.  He gave updates on crime statistics, but then spent significant time outlining policy changes regarding use of force.

The New York City Police Department, he said, had started a 54-person “Force Investigation Division.”  There is also a “Risk Management Unit” that Bratton said “will clearly identify officers that need to be focused on.”

He asked Chief Kevin Ward to outline more.

“From now on, when we use force, we will document it, identify it, and investigate it,” Ward said.

Officers will be required to fill out a two-page “Force Incident Report” every time they have physical contact in a confrontation with a civilian, use pepper spray, Taser, or their gun.

The department said it will focus on training officers to “de-escalate” situations.

The president of the police union—Pat Lynch, of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association—issued a statement about some of the new policies, and he clearly wasn’t thrilled with them.

“No amount of new training or additional paperwork will make necessary force that is lawful and properly used by police officers acceptable to those who want to return to the hands-off, reactive policing strategies that sent crime soaring in the past.  More paperwork coupled with a serious shortage of police officers and the continual second-guessing of their actions is a formula for disaster.  It is a call for police officers to disengage themselves from the very proactive policing that brought this city from the brink of disaster in the 1990’s.  We’ve lived through the era of reactive policing where cops could do nothing but respond to 911 calls, causing crime and disorderly behavior to run rampant in our neighborhoods.  New York City police officers want to keep our streets safe.  To do that, we need support—not more reports.”

Bratton responded that he didn’t agree with Pat Lynch in this instance, and added, “Where we’re going is where American policing is going to be going.”

Mayor deBlasio also issued a statement, which said in part, “The analysis will provide transparency, empower the City to track precisely what is happening, and then make needed adjustments.  This is a key part of our efforts to implement a proactive neighborhood policing vision, and deepen the connection between police and the community.

DOI Commissioner Peters said of  NYPD officials,  during the Thursday briefing, “I have reason to believe they’ve been working in good faith,” Peters said.  “Supervisors play a key role in the integrity of these sheets,” Peters added, referring to the new Force Incident Reports that will be implemented.

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