An NYPD officer watches a protest against the anti-vaccine mandate at the MetroTech Center in Brooklyn, February 7, 2022. Photo by Ben Fractenberg/THE CITY

This article was originally published on by THE CITY.

The NYPD let 21 cops who should have been fired for gross misconduct in recent years stay on the job – including a veteran detective who improperly contacted several women who called a Crime Stoppers hotline, according to an oversight committee.

In the Police Anti-Corruption Commission’s 20th “annual” report, quietly released last month, investigators said NYPD discipline was insufficient in 38 of 338 cases – just over 11% – which were concluded between October 2018 and September 2019.

This is the same rate of disagreement revealed in the commission’s previous report, published three years ago in late 2019.

The five-member CCPC, created under former mayor Rudy Giuliani in 1995 to root out corruption in the police department, releases reports almost annually that assess the adequacy of NYPD discipline and the quality of the department’s internal investigations. Although the reports detail specific cases, they do not name the officers involved.

Among the recent findings the commission disagreed with was the case of William McGrade, a detective who rudely contacted a tipster who had called the supposedly anonymous Crime Stoppers hotline. in March 2019 to provide information about a home invasion.

According to the commission’s report, the detective – whose identity was obtained through NYPD records released to THE CITY – told the woman she “sounded hot on the phone and asked her what she wore and if she slept naked”.

He also sent her inappropriate text messages and a photo of himself wearing a costume, the CCPC noted.

It is unclear how the woman brought McGrade’s actions to authorities.

When confronted by department investigators, the detective admitted to contacting two other tipsters earlier, one of whom he eventually met in person.

He was punished by being placed on a year’s probation, where any further misconduct could result in automatic dismissal and the loss of 45 days of vacation – but the commission said the discipline did not go far enough.

“We believe termination would be more appropriate given the detective’s disciplinary history and the particular facts of this case,” the report said.

That story included similar misconduct in 2013, the commission said, when McGrade was caught texting and calling a victim of domestic violence in an attempt to start a relationship.

For this misconduct, he had only been docked for two vacation days, which the commission called “inappropriately lenient”.

CCPC members also pointed to the risks of compromising public confidence in the confidentiality of the tip line as an aggravating factor that should have led to the detective’s ousting.

“His misconduct was particularly serious because he breached the department’s obligation to maintain the anonymity of tipsters’ identities,” the report said. “If the department does not vigorously protect this anonymity, potential tipsters may fear that their identities will be publicly revealed, or revealed directly to the people they report, resulting in threats or physical harm.”

Attempts to reach McGrade, who retired from the NYPD in June 2021 according to a police spokesperson, were unsuccessful.

An NYPD spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment on a specific case, but said the board’s agreement to 89% of disciplinary decisions imposed during the reporting period was a sign of a “strong” disciplinary system.

“The department appreciates the work of the Police Anti-Corruption Commission,” said the spokesperson, who did not give his name. “Their analysis of cases in which they disagree will be taken into consideration when evaluating future cases with similar conduct.”

Protesters against police brutality kneel along Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn on June 2, 2020.
Photo by Ben Fractenberg/THE CITY

Who decides the penalties?

The issue of police discipline and accountability has been a difficult one for decades and has received considerable attention as killings and other police misconduct have more often been captured on video in recent years.

One of the factors that reformers have opposed is a structure that allows the NYPD commissioner full latitude to determine the sentence for misconduct – including the power to overturn a guilty verdict entered by an administrative judge. in a county trial.

Following local protests sparked in part by the May 2020 police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, there has been a concerted push among some elected officials and criminal justice officials to change this arrangement – ​​which is governed by state law.

In December of that year, Fred Davie, chairman of the city’s Civil Complaints Commission, said the body – which investigates and prosecutes certain types of police misconduct – should also have the power to determine the discipline of an officer in the cases he handles.

A month earlier, The New York Times reported that the NYPD had only accepted CCRB’s recommendations for disciplinary sanctions in 29% of the most serious cases the board had prosecuted – handing out more lenient sanctions in thousands of cases. case.

Within months, city council members sought to pass a new law limiting the police commissioner’s absolute discretion, but then-mayor Bill de Blasio — now a candidate for Congress — made it clear he wouldn’t. would not support such an effort.

Due in part to jurisdictional issues, the Board ended up passing an advisory-only resolution — sponsored by then-Board member Laurie Cumbo (D-Brooklyn) — urging the state to give the CCRB authority to make disciplinary decisions. on his own cases.

And legislation introduced in Albany last year to limit the police commissioner’s disciplinary power in cases triggered by complaints from civilian deaths in committee in both the Assembly and the state Senate.

“You want to make sure that when disciplinary action is taken, it’s appropriate and it’s not too lenient or too heavy-handed,” said State Sen. Jamaal Bailey (D-Bronx), sponsor of the Senate version. of the bill. “Sometimes an independent body may be the best arbiter for that.”

NYPD officers in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, January 20, 2021.
Photo by Ben Fractenberg/THE CITY

A tangled web

In a dozen cases where the CCPC reported that the discipline imposed by senior police officers was too lenient, members determined that the sanction should also have included probation with the possibility of dismissal.

This included a case where an officer improperly accessed a database of license plates to provide his friend, who owned a car delivery service, with the name and address of a person who was allegedly involved in a car accident with one of the department’s employees.

Police later learned that the livery employee was a drug dealer who was selling fentanyl to the person whose plate the officer was running. And this person happens to be a confidential informant (CI) for the New York State Police.

Using information provided by the NYPD officer, the livery worker contacted the confidential informant, told him he knew where he lived, and threatened to kill him if he didn’t cough up 25,000. $.

That contact forced state police to cut short their investigation and prematurely arrest the drug trafficker, according to the report.

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