Civilian Complaint Review Board

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Civilian Complaint Review Board
CCRB logo.png
Board overview
JurisdictionNew York City
Headquarters100 Church Street,
Manhattan, NY 10017
Board executives
  • Frederick Davie, chairperson
  • Jonathan Darche, executive director
Key document

The NYC Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB) is the oversight agency of the largest police force in the country. A board of the New York City government, the CCRB is tasked with investigating, mediating, and prosecuting complaints of misconduct on the part of the New York City Police Department.[1][2][3] Its regulations are compiled in Title 38-A[4] of the New York City Rules.


The CCRB exists today as a fully independent civil department, staffed with 142 civilian investigators and about a dozen miscellaneous employees. Additionally, three officers from the NYPD's Monitoring and Analysis Section of the Department Advocate's Office work with the CCRB at their office at 100 Church Street, whose role is to provide the Investigators with access to certain restricted NYPD documentation.

The agency is headed by the 13 member board, five chosen by the city council, 5 by the mayor, and 3 by the Police Commissioner; none may be current public employees. As of April 2018, the chair is Rev. Frederick Davie.[5] Jonathan Darche, after having served as Interim Executive Director and Chief Prosecutor, was appointed Executive Director in May 2017.[1]

The agency is divided into several divisions, the largest being the Investigations Division. The Investigations Division is headed by two Chiefs of Investigations who oversee 16 Investigative Squads.

The agency also contains an Administrative Division, which includes Human Resources, Information Management Unit and the Case Management Unit (which stores all records of past cases), among others, which is led by the Deputy Executive Director of Administration.[6] There are then four other directorships, including the new "Research and Strategic Initiatives Director", as well as the Mediation Unit Director. There is also legal counsel. These units complement and serve the Investigations Unit, which acts as the main focal point of the Agency.[6]

Handling complaints[edit]



Each complaint the agency receives is assessed by one of the Investigative Managers on a daily rotating basis and has its merits checked for proper jurisdiction. Jurisdiction is first assessed by type of allegations. Only allegations that fall under the jurisdiction of the CCRB are investigated by the CCRB. They include Force (whether use of force was justified), Abuse of Authority[7] (which includes unauthorized searches and seizures, inappropriate entry onto property, refusal to provide name and shield number, etc.), Discourtesy (using foul language, acting in a rude and unprofessional manner, flashing rude and offensive gestures, etc.) and Offensive Language, which is more specific than Discourtesy, and includes slurs based on race, religion, ethnicity, sex, gender, and LGBTQ status.[2] Jurisdiction is also determined by the officers involved. As many types of officers work in the City of New York (such as the MTA Police, the Port Authority Police and the New York State Police), complainants encounter all of these officers in their day-to-day lives. Only incidents involving members of the NYPD are investigated by the CCRB. Cases that do not fall within the CCRB's jurisdiction are then forwarded to the respective jurisdiction (usually, the NYPD Internal Affairs Bureau, the Office of the Chief of Department or the respective organization in question, such as another police department).[8]

Civilian contact[edit]

The cases are then assigned to one of 142 civilian investigators, who are members of one of 16 squads, who then attempts to contact the civilian who initially complained. After initial assignment, there are four dispositions that result only from a full investigation: Substantiated, Unsubstantiated, Exonerated, and Unfounded. There are five other "miscellaneous," or inconclusive dispositions: Complainant Uncooperative, Complainant Unavailable, Officer Unidentified, Miscellaneous (i.e. the MOS has retired since the incident occurred) and Mediated.[9] If contact with the civilian complainant is not achieved after five contact attempts by telephone and two letters by mail, and the contact information is confirmed the case is automatically closed with a disposition of, "Complainant Uncooperative." If the civilian cannot be located after a diligent search and/or did not provide accurate or correct contact information, the case is closed as "Complainant Unavailable." These types of cases are not considered, "full investigations," but are tallied together with the total number of complaints for statistical purposes. Although not stated on their web page, all communications with Investigators and both civilians and Members of Service are tape-recorded as well as transcribed, to ensure accuracy. Additionally, contrary to popular (and occasionally published belief, see a former CCRB Investigator's misstatements and an Officer's misunderstanding in Vice Magazine's article[10] on the CCRB),[10] all statements made to a CCRB Investigator on the record are considered sworn testimony, and are treated as such legally. All Investigators are Commissioners of Deeds by requirement and may depose anyone within New York City limits.

If the civilian is contacted, a statement is initially taken over the phone by the investigator to further ensure proper jurisdiction and to gain a basic understanding of the broad facts within the complaint. An in-person interview is then scheduled at the CCRB's office at 40 Rector Street, at which point, the investigator meets with the civilian and any witnesses s/he brings with them that were present at the time of the incident and interviews each person separately. The investigator then transcribes the interview, submits a "case plan" to one of their three supervisors (each team having an Assistant Supervising Investigator, a Supervising Investigator and an Investigative Manager).[9]

Officer contact[edit]

Once the case plan is approved, the investigator must then begin their investigation, which involves identifying all subject and witness officers involved. If the investigator fails to identify the officers, the case is closed as, "Officers Unidentified." Once the officers are identified, which is done by obtaining a variety of NYPD documents, including SPRINTS/911 tapes to identify which officer(s) responded to the call in question, roll calls from specific commands, to see which officers were working in the area of question during the time of the incident, Command Logs from respective commands, to determine if the incident was logged and which officer logged it, Memo Books of Officers or DD5s of Detectives, to search for possible notes about the incident, along with arrest records, court records, photographs, Complaint Reports, Accident Reports, AIDED reports, Stop, Question and Possibly Frisk Reports (UF-250s), to name only a few.[9]

Once the officer is identified, s/he is then scheduled to give a statement to the investigator and must attend, according to Patrol Guide 211.13. An officer failing to appear or lying to an investigator is, in itself, a violation that could result in severe discipline up to and including suspension and possibly termination. Each officer and their partner at the time, along with any witness officers are interviewed and questioned about the incident by the investigator. This interview is also taped and transcribed, and based upon the officer's testimony, further information is obtained by the investigator, including subpoenaed medical records, further department documentation, field canvasses and their resulting information, and so on.[9]


Mediation is an option for certain complaints provided the officer does not have an extensive CCRB or NYPD disciplinary history, there was no arrest made and severe force or abuse of authority were not involved. In mediation, the officer and civilian both voluntarily bypass the investigative process and meet each other one-on-one with a third-party mediator to discuss the incident. This results in no disciplinary action being taken against the officer and often results in a more satisfied civilian as an outcome.[11]


After all the civilians and members of service are interviewed and all possible relevant documentation has been received and analyzed, the investigator then collects any relevant case law and begins their, "recommendation," which is their report, averaging about 10-12 pages, on the case in question. The report is broken down into relatively strict (each team has their own, "style," dictated by the Team Managers and Supervisors, and even then, can and often does vary between internal team supervision), template of investigative analysis. The report includes a summary of all complaints made, an explanation of the circumstances of the case, a summation of the statements by the officers and civilians, a credibility assessment of the officers and the civilians (at which point, the investigator is supposed to weigh in criminal history of civilians and CCRB history of officers, as well as inconsistencies between accounts, motivation of the civilian and the overall possibility of an incident occurring), a summation of criminal and CCRB history of the civilians and officers respectively and finally a recommendation for disposition on each complaint.

A recommendation for disposition on each complaint breaks down into four main categories (beyond the technical variants mentioned in part earlier): Substantiated, meaning the officer committed the act in question and it consisted of misconduct; Unsubstantiated, meaning that there is not a preponderance of evidence, either way, to determine if the incident occurred as described and/or the incident consisted of misconduct; Exonerated meaning that the incident occurred but did not consist of misconduct, either because the officers actions were justified or did not actually consist of misconduct; Unfounded meaning that the incident did not occur as described and no misconduct occurred.[8]

Board action[edit]

The recommendations are then reviewed by at least two team level supervisors who then approve or instruct the investigator to "correct" their findings, and upon approval submit the case to the Board. Once the Board receives the complaint, either as a full board, or, more likely, as a three-member sub-unit, they meet to discuss the case and then vote on the recommendations of the investigator.

Public meetings are held to communicate recent statistics and "snapshots," of some of the more straightforward cases are published as examples for the public's understanding and announced at the meeting.[12][13]


Historically, when the board substantiated a complaint and found that an officer committed misconduct, it forwarded the case to the New York City Police Department (NYPD), in most cases with a disciplinary recommendation. While the CCRB has the authority to investigate complaints and to determine if misconduct occurred, under the law only the police commissioner has the authority to impose discipline and decide the appropriate penalty. [14]

However, on April 2, 2012, the NYPD and the CCRB signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) which conferred on the CCRB the power to prosecute substantiated cases where the board recommended "charges and specifications," the most serious discipline.[15]

As a result, the CCRB's Administrative Prosecution Unit (APU) now prosecutes nearly all the cases where the Board recommended the subject officer receive charges and specifications, with limited exceptions. The trials are almost always held at the police department, before an administrative law judge, either the Deputy Commissioner for Trials or an Assistant Deputy Commissioner of Trials. If an officer is found guilty, the penalty can be a warning and admonishment, loss of vacation days, suspension without pay, dismissal probation, or termination from the NYPD. The police commissioner retains the authority to decide whether the discipline is imposed, what level of discipline is imposed, and the penalty imposed.[14]

Number of complaints[edit]

In 2006, the CCRB received 7,669 complaints from civilians, and closed 7,399 cases, of which 2,680 were full investigations (meaning that the civilian participated, the officer(s) were identified and an investigation was closed after a full investigation).[16] Approximately 6% of the full investigations resulted in a Substantiated disposition.[8] 262 cases were mediated.

The CCRB remains the only completely civilian oversight of the New York Police Department in the city, and is complemented by the NYPD's Internal Affairs Bureau, and the Mayor's Task Force on Police Corruption, each charged with investigating different types of allegations. The CCRB and its acronym FADO (for the first letter of the allegations it investigates) has permeated all ranks of the NYPD and is part of all officers' training at the Police Academy. Additionally, the number of complaints has risen steadily since 2002 [8] as the 311 system was implemented and public awareness of the program grew.


Over the years, NYPD officers have come under public scrutiny with allegations of corruption, brutality, excessive use of force, and poor firearm discipline.[17] Individual incidents have tended to receive more publicity; a portion of which have been substantiated while others have not (e.g. Lt. Charles Becker, the only NYPD officer sentenced to death by electric chair). Citizens have wanted participation in reviewing complaints against the police as early as the Progressive Era.[3] However, little progress was achieved in the first half of the twentieth century. When citizens do make a complaint, they may face reprisal from the police. Citizens might be arrested, accused of falsifying charges against them, and there was no oversight to substantiate any complaints or accusations of police misconduct.[3]

During 1953, the Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB) was created.[18][19][20] In 1950, eighteen organizations formed the “Permanent Coordination Committee on Police and Minority Groups” to lobby the city to address overall police misconduct and “police misconduct in their relations with Puerto Ricans and Negros specifically.”[18][2] The NYPD established the CCRB in response to the coalition's demands. A committee of three deputy police commissioners was tasked to investigate into civilian complaints. The board was given greater authority under Mayor Robert Wagner in 1955, but the board remained governed within the NYPD; police officers investigated into the complaints and the deputy commissioners decided upon recommendation of discipline based on the investigation. The CCRB remained under NYPD jurisdiction without civilian oversight.[18][2]

In 1965, Mayor John Lindsay appointed former federal judge Lawrence E. Walsh to investigate and consult with the NYPD to make improvements to the department.[18][2] He recommended that members of the general public, non-police officers, be given substantial authority in any new civilian complaint review board. Walsh’s work had a focus on modernization of the NYPD, but also encouraged the board to have civilian representation to instill public confidence that civilian complaints will be managed impartially. Lindsay eventually formed a search committee, headed by former Attorney General Herbert Brownell, to find civilian candidates to serve on the CCRB. John Cassese (president of the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association), did not welcome civilian presence on the board. Cassese said, “I’m sick and tired of giving in to minority groups with their whims and their gripes and shouting.”[18][21] After much debate-and opposition to the proposal from the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association—Mayor Lindsay decided to appoint four civilians to the reconstituted board. Eventually the committee found four candidates and appointed them as part of the board. It is the first time in NYC’s history that people not involved with the NYPD reviewed the investigations of complaints against officers. It would not last long.[18]

Cassese along with other police was against civilians within the CCRB.[3] With the aid of the PBA, he collected enough signatures to press a ballot measure to remove civilians from having oversight of police complaints.[18] The PBA argued that with civilian oversight, the NYPD can’t do their job correctly. However, the people who favored civilian participation accused the opposition as bigots and racists. The campaign was hard fought on both sides, but Cassese’s side won the ballot, restoring the board to an all-police committee. Civilian board members wouldn’t return until the Koch Administration.[18]

The Knapp Commission (in the 1970s) and the Mollen Commission (in 1994) led to reforms within the NYPD aimed to improve police accountability. However, in recent years,[when?] possible causes such as low salaries and declining morale, many more off-duty NYPD officers are being arrested and charged in and outside the city for crimes ranging from drunk driving to homicide.[22] During the Knapp Commission, the investigation didn't involve the CCRB as they independently investigated into matters. However, the commission did review the CCRB complaints and used it to verify certain information into police corruption.[2]

Between 1986 and 1987, the New York City Council enacted a piece of legislation that called for imposing some degree of civilian oversight once again. The CCRB was restructured to have private citizens work alongside with non-uniformed police officers.[18] Legislation was passed in 1986 by the city council. With the consent and advisement of the city council, Mayor Koch appointed six members and the police commissioner appointed six for them to work as a team in investigating civilian complaints; the hired civilians were supervised with the oversight of police department investigators and employees.[18] However, the return of civilian members wasn’t satisfactory to public opinion as they demanded greater civilian control the following year.[18]

In 1988, the NYPD responded to complaints of drug trafficking, vagrants, squatters, and unlawful groups in Tompkins Square Park by enforcing a pre-existing 1:00 A.M. curfew that wasn’t enforced previously.[23] The curfew wasn’t welcomed and resulted in public animosity against the police as vocal anger and objects (like glass) were thrown against them. On July 31, a rally protesting the curfew resulted in a confrontation between police and civilians. Four civilians were arrested and four police injured. On August 6, police violently forced demonstrators from the park.[23] Caught on video, police were shown to use their riot gear to strike people with their nightsticks, randomly assaulting nearby bystanders unrelated to the protest, and using their riot shields to cover themselves from identification.[24][25] After the incident, the CCRB commissioned a special report on the matter, “there is no evidence that any effort was made to limit the use of force . . . Force was used for its own sake.”[18] Although the report was critical of the NYPD, it event gained support for an all-civilian CCRB. That would come to pass during the Dinkins administration.[18]

During September 1992, Mayor Dinkins supported an independent CCRB; it was met with political and police resistance. Police protested violently and engaged in actions that were described as "unruly, mean-spirited and perhaps criminal."[26] Sponsored by the police union, an officers' protest was staged that involved thousands of officers demonstrating at City Hall. They blocked traffic to the Brooklyn Bridge and shouted racial slurs. Before serving as mayor, Rudolph Giuliani participated in the protest.[27][28]

By 1993, after much debate and public opinion, Mayor Dinkins and the city council created its current, all-civilian board.[18][29] The CCRB was granted subpoena power and authority to recommend discipline in cases the board reviewed and substantiated. Subpoena power was given because the CCRB didn’t have the authority to obtain filmed footage from local media outlets that recorded evidence to substantiate their cases. The board was underfunded at its infancy and wasn’t able to handle at the level of complaints it received.[citation needed] Proper funding wouldn’t come until the Giuliani administration in 1997.[18] In the aftermath of the Abner Louima incident (where he was assaulted, brutalized, and sodomized with a broken-off broom handle by NYPD), the CCRB's budget was steadily increased to all the agency to hire additional investigators and experienced managers to oversee complaint investigations; it has led to great improvement in the board's investigative work. Currently the CCRB is the largest civilian oversight agency in the country, investigating over 10,000 complaints and resulting in the discipline for thousands of police officers over their misconduct.[18]

Even though it has only existed in its current form for a little over a decade, the conception of a board delegated power to investigate complaints about potential police misconduct predates the administration of Robert Wagner, who was responsible for investing the nascent Civilian Complaint Review Board-which was then composed solely of three deputy police commissioners-with new powers in 1955. However, it remained a province of the NYPD, with all investigations being conducted by police officers, and their findings forwarded to the deputy commissioners for recommendation. Because the CCRB has no authority over the police they investigate, their recommendation(s) are at best a consideration and can't be used to define the fate of the accused officer.[30] The Police Commissioner has final authority of the law.[31]

In the CCRB's Annual Report of 2017, the agency received 4,487 complaints from civilians in allegations of Force, Abuse of Authority, Discourtesy, or Offensive Language by members of the NYPD (a 5% increase since 2016). About 58% were allegations of abuse of authority (e.g. unlawful searches of premises, refusals to provide a name or shield number, and threats to arrest a civilian). Through the Data Transparency Initiative (DTI), they are making data (about the complaints and investigations) accessible. Due to body-worn cameras or video evidence, the CCRB was able to make definitive determination of complaints and allegations.[32] As of 2018, the CCRB's chairman is Fred Davie.[33][34]

In 2020, ProPublica published a searchable database containing records of public allegations against police officers from the CCRB.[35]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ New York City Charter chapter 18-A, § 440 et seq.
  2. ^ a b c d e f GILBERT, STEVEN V. POLICE CORRUPTION IN THE NYPD: from Knapp to Mollen. CRC PRESS, 2017.
  3. ^ a b c d Roberg, et al. Police & Society 6th Edition. Oxford University Press, 2014.
  4. ^ "Title 30-A: Civilian Complaint Review Board" (PDF). Retrieved May 14, 2018.
  5. ^ "De Blasio appoints Rev. Frederick Davie as chairman of city's police watchdog group".
  6. ^ a b "Archived copy". Archived from the original on February 20, 2009. Retrieved February 15, 2009.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  7. ^ "CCRB Annual Report 2017" (PDF). NYC.GOV.
  8. ^ a b c d "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on February 15, 2009. Retrieved February 15, 2009.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  9. ^ a b c d "New York City Civilian Complaint Review Board". Retrieved June 1, 2016.
  10. ^ a b "Archived copy". Archived from the original on May 23, 2011. Retrieved February 15, 2009.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  11. ^ "New York City Civilian Complaint Review Board". Retrieved June 1, 2016.
  12. ^ "New York City Civilian Complaint Review Board". Retrieved June 1, 2016.
  13. ^ "New York City Civilian Complaint Review Board". Retrieved June 1, 2016.
  14. ^ a b "Prosecution". Civilian Complaint Review Board. Retrieved May 24, 2017.
  15. ^ "Memorandum of Understanding Between the Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB) and the Police Department (NYPD) of the City of New York Concerning the Processing of Substantiated Complaints" (PDF). Retrieved May 14, 2018.
  16. ^ "New York City Civilian Complaint Review Board". Retrieved June 1, 2016.
  17. ^ Gabriel J. Chin ed., New York City Police Corruption Investigation Commissions, 1894-1994 (William S. Hein 1997) ISBN 978-1-57588-211-6
  18. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p "History - CCRB". Retrieved March 3, 2019.
  19. ^ Rosenbloom, Jonathan. "Police Misconduct Cases - Prosecuted By Civilians, But Still Judged By Police". Gotham Gazette. Retrieved March 3, 2019.
  20. ^ "Police precincts in Astoria and south Queens neighborhoods among those with most complaints in borough". Retrieved March 3, 2019.
  21. ^ "What Policing Looks Like To A Former Investigator Of Misconduct". Retrieved March 3, 2019.
  22. ^ Walker, Samuel (2005). The New World of Police Accountability. Sage. p. 17.
  23. ^ a b "Mayor Ed Koch on the Tompkins Square Park Police Riot of 1988". The Daily Beast. November 30, 2010. Retrieved August 22, 2018.
  24. ^ telengardc64 (March 13, 2007). "Tompkins Square Park Riot". Retrieved March 3, 2019 – via YouTube.
  25. ^ Civilian Complaint Review Board, City of New York (April 1989). REPORT OF THE CIVILIAN COMPLAINT REVIEW BOARD ON THE DISPOSITION OF CIVILIANS* COMPLAINTS ARISING FROM POLICE DEPARTMENT ACTION OCCURRING AT TOMPKINS SQUARE PARK ON AUGUST 6-7, 1988 (report). LaGuardia Community College/CUNY: La Guardia and Wagner Archives, Edward I. Koch Collection, Koch Collection Subject Files.
  26. ^ "Shielded from Justice: New York: Civilian Complaint Review Board". Retrieved August 25, 2019.
  27. ^ "Shielded from Justice: New York: Civilian Complaint Review Board". Retrieved March 3, 2019.
  28. ^
  29. ^
  30. ^ Mueller, Benjamin (September 8, 2017). "Review Board Recommends Stiffest Punishment for Officer in Garner Case". The New York Times. Retrieved March 3, 2019.
  31. ^ "News Closeup: How the Civilian Complaint Review Board works; new Alzheimer's treatments". July 29, 2018. Retrieved March 3, 2019.
  32. ^
  33. ^ "Fredrick Davie - CCRB". Retrieved March 3, 2019.
  34. ^ "Frederick A. Davie". Retrieved March 3, 2019.
  35. ^ Umansky, Eric (July 26, 2020). "We're Publishing Thousands of Police Discipline Records That New York Kept Secret for Decades". ProPublica. Pro Publica.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]