Slow justice in the Ramarley Graham case

A marked NYPD car
A marked NYPD car Photo Credit: Charles Eckert

An internal police report on the 2012 shooting death of Ramarley Graham placed the major burden of guilt not on Officer Richard Haste, who shot the unarmed teenager in the bathroom of his Bronx apartment. Instead, the report placed it on the sergeant at the scene for failing to stop Haste from rushing pell-mell into the apartment building before backup arrived, NYPD Confidential has learned.

The report, never made public, was written in 2014 by then-Chief of Department Philip Banks, who chaired an ad-hoc group of police officials known as the Firearms Discharge Review Board. While criticizing Haste for tactical mistakes, the board recommended only minor discipline, police sources said.

But when Banks presented the findings to then-Commissioner Bill Bratton, Bratton asked Banks to change his conclusions and to place the onus on Haste, said the police sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the report. Banks refused, the sources said.

It is unclear whether the report will affect Haste’s upcoming departmental trial. But it underscores how politics can influence police decisions, even in a racially charged case.

Bratton did not return phone calls or an email seeking comment. Banks, who retired at the end of 2014 amid controversy after Bratton promoted him to first deputy, said he was “busy golfing and fishing. I am retired. Leave me alone.”

Department spokesman Stephen Davis declined to comment, citing Haste’s departmental trial on failure to use proper tactics, scheduled to start Jan. 17. The sergeant at the scene also faces disciplinary action.

Haste’s is one of two controversial cases involving the deaths of unarmed black civilians at the hands of white officers that continue to dog the NYPD. The second case is the “chokehold” death of Eric Garner in Staten Island involving Officer Daniel Pantaleo in 2014. A Staten Island grand jury declined to indict him on criminal charges. Two and a half years later, the Justice Department has yet to decide whether to indict Pantaleo on civil rights charges.

In Haste’s case, a Bronx grand jury indicted him in Graham’s death. But a judge dismissed the 2012 indictment on a technicality. A second grand jury chose not to indict him, and federal prosecutors declined to seek an indictment on civil rights violations.