City Council Announces ‘Comprehensive’ Response to Eric Garner Decision

Protests in New York City erupted after the Eric Garner grand jury decision. (Photo: Daniel Cole)

Protests in New York City erupted after the Eric Garner grand jury decision. (Photo: Daniel Cole)

A week after a Staten Island grand jury voted not to indict a police officer in the death of Eric Garner, Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito is requesting the NYPD inspector general investigate how NYPD tracks, monitors and addresses alleged abusive conduct.

Ms. Mark-Viverito, an outspoken critic of the grand jury’s decision, also called for the establishment of Civilian Complaint Review Board “community outreach” locations in the district offices of council members.

“The City Council will be taking a comprehensive look at the steps we can take to find a positive outcome from the tragic events which led to the death of Eric Garner,” Ms. Mark-Viverito said in a statement. “The overwhelming majority of NYPD officers serve honorably and with great distinction every day and these first steps are about ensuring the actions of a few don’t malign the whole.”

The Council said it will formally direct the IG to investigate how the NYPD addresses abusive police conduct, asking how the NYPD handles officers with a track record or “poor” interactions with the public. The IG will also be directed to review how whistleblowers are protected. Findings should be made public, the speaker said. (A spokeswoman for the IG’s office pointed out, after this story was published, that the Council can only direct the Department of Investigation to carry out an investigation, not the IG.)

The IG was created last year over the objection of former Mayor Michael Bloomberg, establishing a new oversight arm for the NYPD. Despite heated rhetoric on both sides of the aisle–critics said an IG would hamper and hamstring the NYPD’s work and advocates promised it would bring about the wholesale reform community activists were crying for–the apparent impact of the new office, at least so far, has been minimal.

The Council is hoping that putting CCRB locations at district offices will help make it easier for constituents to file complaints with the oversight agency. Currently, members of the public must come to the CCRB’s office in Manhattan to file a complaint.

“The tragic death of Eric Garner is a clear call for meaningful policy changes at several levels within our city,” said Councilwoman Debi Rose, the Staten Island Democrat representing the neighborhood where Garner died. “While we stand with the vast majority of officers who risk their lives to protect our city–and do so with courtesy, professionalism and respect–we must also make significant changes to a system that has allowed bad actors to continue to walk the beat.”

Under this plan, district offices would provide space for CCRB investigators to follow up on complaints, take statements from witnesses and onduct events for the public to raise awareness and understanding of what the CCRB does. A spokesman for Ms. Mark-Viverito said the CCRB locations have yet to be determined and wouldn’t immediately say what their cost would be. For the first phase, districts with higher incidents of alleged police misconduct would be singled out for CCRB locations, the spokesman said.

Nicole Turso, a spokeswoman for the IG’s office, said the agency was looking forward to receiving the City Council request.

“For several months, DOI’s Office of the Inspector General for the NYPD has been reviewing questions related to the use of force and, specifically, chokeholds,” Ms. Turso said. “We do not discuss our investigations until they are complete.”

Updated with comment from the IG’s office