The NYPD underreports how often cops use force against civilians, such as punches, Tasers and pepper spray, the department's inspector general said Tuesday.
An audit of arrest reports, prisoner injuries and other documents found that officers incorrectly selected “No” instead of “Yes” from a computerized “Forced Used” drop-down menu, according to a 28-page report on the department’s force reporting system.
“Failures to comprehensively and accurately document the use of force by police officers are not only missed opportunities to improve policing, but risk jeopardizing the trust NYPD has worked to build with communities across the city,” the NYPD’s inspector general, Philip K. Eure, said in a statement.
Eure’s latest findings are a follow-up to a 2015 audit that criticized the NYPD’s failure to systematically track officers’ every use of force, ranging from kicks to gunshots. While commending the NYPD for improving since then, Eure found the department still “does not have sufficient controls in place.”
Some cops didn’t compete the required “Threat, Resistance, or Injury’ (T.R.I.)” form, according to the report. Others didn’t note on arrest reports that force had been used, even when the civilian had been charged with resisting arrest, which strongly suggests force to gain compliance.
Among the problems Eure’s report identified: the NYPD imposes no deadline for completing the force form; officers are confused about what types of incidents necessitate filling out the form, and the form lacks a narrative field to explain what happened.
Eure’s team analyzed two three-month periods — September to November of 2016, and May through July of 2017 — to gauge the level of NYPD compliance with city law requiring that uses of force be tracked.
Asked about the report, at a news conference about crime statistics, NYPD Assistant Chief Matthew Pontillo said the audit’s sampling began in late 2016 – when “the reporting mechanism was still in its infancy.” The compliance rate then was between 60 and 65 percent, he said.
“Going forward, we see that our compliance is much improved and even the IG notes that we have over 90 percent compliance with their most recent sampling,” he said. Pontillo said the department would “randomly sample body camera video looking for incidents that involve force . . . and compare the video to the report to ensure that the investigation was done properly.”
Eure’s audit recommended the NYPD tweak the form, set deadlines for cops to complete the paperwork and levy discipline on cops who don’t.