The Civilian Complaint Review Board, an independent agency that reviews complaints against the NYPD, is hiring 20 employees to staff the Administrative Prosecution Unit, which will investigate and prosecute police misconduct complaints, according to WNYC.
The CCRB received about $1.5 million in funding this fiscal year to staff and run the unit this winter, after a pilot program proved successful.
Previously, the CCRB referred claims it substantiated back to the NYPD's Department Advocate’s Office for prosecution, but critics say this undermined the board’s credibility and that the process lacked transparency.
“This is really a milestone and it’s historical – for the first time we’re being permitted as an outside agency to be prosecuting these cases,” CCRB Chair Daniel Chu told WNYC.
The board reviews complaints against officers such as use of excessive force, abuse of authority, discourtesy and offensive language, but the NYPD will still prosecute all other cases that don’t fall within those categories, according to WNYC.
A trial commissioner will issue a decision, but Police Commissioner Ray Kelly still has the final say over what discipline an officer will face.
The new CCRB hopes to make a difference in investigating cases like the complaints of police brutality leveled by the Pierre family of Crown Heights last July.
The family claimed that after eldest daughter Shaquana Pierre dropped a pizza crust on the ground near her Franklin Avenue home, officers cursed at her, and when family members tried to intervene, they were beaten with clubs and pepper sprayed.
Five family members, plus three bystanders, filed complaints with the CCRB, and the family hired an attorney to file a civil suit against the NYPD.
The CCRB said it expects to hire most staffers by fall and begin training before the end of the year.
“The unit is an important step towards greater police accountability, but it will only be as good the lawyers hired to staff it,” Chris Dunn, a lawyer with the New York Civil Liberties Union told WNYC.