Between 2011 and 2015, at least 319 New York Police Department employees committed offenses that warranted being fired but retained their jobs, according to a BuzzFeed News investigation released Monday.
The outlet based its reporting on internal police documents, which the NYPD kept secret by invoking a contentious state law. A 2015 WNYC study revealed that New York, Delaware, and California are the only three states that have legislation protecting police misconduct records from public release.
The records show a pattern of reinstating officers that committed serious offenses.
According to the Buzzfeed News reporting, “At least fifty employees lied on official reports, under oath, or during an internal affairs investigation. Thirty-eight were found guilty by a police tribunal of excessive force, getting into a fight, or firing their gun unnecessarily. Fifty-seven were guilty of driving under the influence. Seventy-one were guilty of ticket-fixing. One officer, Jarrett Dill, threatened to kill someone. Another, Roberson Tunis, sexually harassed and inappropriately touched a fellow officer. Some were guilty of lesser offenses, like mouthing off to a supervisor.”
The BuzzFeed report detailed the cases of certain individuals, such as Officer Raymond Marrero, who committed noteworthy offenses. As of 2014, the city had paid about $900,000 in settlements in incidents involving Marrero. These incidents included a beating and an assault. Marrero, who declined to talk about his history, remains employed by the department and was paid a salary of nearly $120,000 last year.
The police commissioner, who oversees disciplinary process, punished the 319 officers whose cases were analyzed by BuzzFeed News with “dismissal probation,” which enables employees to maintain their salary and normal duties. This status is generally designated for a year, but it is only a nominal demotion. The punishment merely means officers cannot be promoted and may receive fewer overtime shifts.
During the five years scrutinized by BuzzFeed News, 777 officers were placed on dismissal probation, and 463 resigned or were forced to leave while awaiting discipline.
BuzzFeed News reporters conducted over 100 phone calls and reviewed thousands of pages of court records to confirm the information revealed by the internal documents.
The deputy commissioner of the Department Advocate’s Office, which adjudicates which employees are charged and prosecuted, defended the department’s internal discipline methods.
“The department is not interested in terminating officers that don't need to be terminated. We're interested in keeping employees and making our employees obey the rules and do the right thing,” he said. "But where there are failings that we realize this person should be separated from the department, this police commissioner and the prior police commissioner have shown a willingness to do that."
Secret NYPD files show hundreds of officers kept their jobs despite serious offenses, from lying to attacking people https://t.co/Ij1BhXJXrT— BuzzFeed News (@BuzzFeedNews) March 5, 2018
While the BuzzFeed report offers deeply problematic details about the inner workings of the nation’s largest police force, it is hardly surprising. The NYPD has witnessed scrutiny in recent years related to its implementation of stop-and-frisk tactics and use of force, both of which it has attempted to change. Data also shows that the NYPD is plagued by racist policing tactics, as the majority of stops involve black and Hispanic individuals.
Despite the body of evidence indicating clear problems with the NYPD’s policing, it would be presumptuous to assume that the BuzzFeed News article will immediately have any impact on how New York City law enforcement officers carry out their duties.
A report released by the American Civil Liberties Union in January detailed how the NYPD derailed a New York City bill intended to improve police encounters and hints at the difficulties of changing systemic police behavior.
For now, the investigation will enter a larger body of evidence used to document the abuses of the city’s police and will raise awareness about the problems with internal regulation of the city’s officers.