With the fatal shootings of Terence Crutcher in Tulsa, Okla., and Keith Lamont Scott in Charlotte, North Carolina, tensions between police and the public are front and center nationwide.
Here in New York in the last few weeks, a decision to have a departmental trial against Richard Haste, the officer who fatally shot Ramarley Graham 4 years ago, as well as calls for the release of disciplinary records for Daniel Pantaleo, the officer accused in Eric Garner’s chokehold death, have issues of police-community tensions at the forefront.
It’s all why Frederic Davie and Angela Fernandez’s new positions are vital.
They are the newest appointees to the 13-member Civilian Complaint Review Board, or CCRB.
“It breaks my heart,” said Davie, a Presbyterian minister and senior administrator at Union Theological Seminary, in addition to now serving on the CCRB. “My heart sinks to the floor when I see another one of these [police shootings] happen.”
The CCRB investigates complaints of NYPD misconduct. It then recommends courses of discipline or training for officers deemed to have carried out abuse. It is optional whether the NYPD follows the CCRB’s recommendations.
“[It] also provides an incredible opportunity for the CCRB to be a model nationwide,” Fernandez said.
She’s the executive director and supervising attorney of Northern Manhattan Coalition for Immigrant Rights, in addition to now being on the CCRB, among other prominent positions.
Both Davie and Fernandez said, in an exclusive interview with PIX11 News, they like and appreciate cops. However, said Davie, “What happens is a few people overstep the bounds of their authority and it affects quality of life for everyone else. The CCRB can help mediate that.”
The CCRB has about 140 investigators who analyze complaints to see if they’re valid, or substantiated. The number of complaints against police has been declining, down to 4,700 in the last year, resulting in 2,900 lawsuits. As recently as three years ago, there were 1,000 more complaints and hundreds more lawsuits.
Also, thanks in part to the greater presence of cellphone video, far more complaints — nearly 70 percent more — are substantiated. That’s a record, even though overall complaints are down.
“It’s good that substantiated claims are up because it means the job is being done of ensuring that these claims are serious and need to be addressed,” Fernandez said.
The CCRB has seen its own controversy recently. Its chairman, Richard Emery, resigned last spring after being sued by a fellow board member over expletives he’d used to describe his female colleagues. He’s a lawyer who was also found to have signed as clients people with complaints before the CCRB.