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NYPD reveals new use of force guidelines, admitting deficiencies

New York City Police Commissioner William J. Bratton,

New York City Police Commissioner William J. Bratton, right, and NYPD First Deputy Commissioner Benjamin Tucker, left, hold a media briefing on use of force guidelines at One Police Plaza in Manhattan on Thursday, Oct. 1, 2015. Photo Credit: Charles Eckert

Police Commissioner Bill Bratton outlined new use of force guidelines for the department on Thursday, admitting there are policy deficiencies. The announcement came hours after the city's Inspector General released his own use-of-force recommendations for the NYPD.

Bratton said the department had been working on an overhaul, which will include documenting and investigating every incident where force is used, before the IG's report. But Bratton said there is currently a "lack of policies" when it comes to non-firearm related use of force.

"We have exhaustive policies on use of firearms ... that resulted in some of the most significant declines of use of firearms by any police force in the nation," Bratton said, speaking at a news conference at police headquarters. "We will have the state-of-the-art on all other elements of use of force by officers in this department."

The new guidelines include several steps to track officers' use of force, as well as force that is used against them. A new patrol guide section will define different levels of force beyond deadly force, including use of pepper spray and less than lethal devices. Officers are also required to intervene and report other officers if they see a violation of the policy, said Kevin Ward, Bratton's chief of staff.

"If they see excessive force, or are aware of excessive force, they must report this to Internal Affairs," Ward said. "Failure to do so ... is going to be serious misconduct for officers concerned."

Earlier in the day, NYPD Inspector General Philip Eure released a report that found "NYPD officers rarely use de-escalation and that the Department's policies and training currently do not adequately address de-escalation as a useful tactic for officers in the field." The report analyzed 179 cases from 2010 to 2014 where the Civilian Complaint Review Board determined officers used excessive or unnecessary force.  

Bratton said he is aware of the issues surrounding use of force tactics.

"We don't dispute that," Bratton said. "We've taken a close look at our experience as the NYPD, certainly my experiences in the LAPD and other agencies, trying to develop what we believe is best practices going forward."

The report also criticized the NYPD's "vague and imprecise" current use-of-force policies, and alleged the department "failed to impose discipline even when provided with evidence of excessive force." For instance, the department declined to impose discipline -- which is ultimately the commissioner's decision -- in 34 out of 77 cases decided from 2010 to 2013, according to the report. That number declined under Bratton, who only declined discipline in three out of 27 allegations from 2014 to 2015.

Bratton said the NYPD has been working very closely with the CCRB over the last few months, adding the department will officially respond to the report within the required 90 days.


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