Bill Bratton Thinks NYPD Disciplinary System Is 'Broken,' Oversight Official Says

NEW YORK, NY - JULY 18:  New York Mayor Bill de Blasio (right) and New York Police Commissioner William Bratton speak to the
NEW YORK, NY - JULY 18: New York Mayor Bill de Blasio (right) and New York Police Commissioner William Bratton speak to the media at a news conference to address the recent death of a man in police custody on July 18, 2014 in New York City. The mayor has promised a full investigation into the circumstances surrounding the death of Eric Garner after he was taken into police custody in Staten Island yesterday. A 400-pound, 6-foot-4 asthmatic, Garner (43) died after police put him in a chokehold outside of a conveinence store for illegally selling cigarettes. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

NEW YORK -- Critics of the New York City Police Department's disciplinary process think the system is broken -- and NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton agrees with them, according to an oversight official who spoke with him Tuesday.

Newly-appointed Civilian Complaint Review Board Chair Richard Emery and Bratton met to discuss the police department's internal disciplinary system. Emery said Bratton appears to recognize that the system -- which only rarely punishes misbehaving cops -- needs an overhaul. He also signaled his openness to a change in how police officers are prosecuted in internal trials.

"The spirit of the meeting was great. Let's see whether it will translate into meaningful change," Emery said at a Wednesday morning public meeting of the review board. "But I do think that Commissioner Bratton feels that this whole disciplinary process is broken, and is bent on changing it."

The police department did not immediately return a request for comment.

Bratton's goal is not necessarily to make discipline tougher. One of his major concerns, according to Emery, is "that cops are treated fairly, so that morale is not destroyed."

As a first step toward reforming the disciplinary process, Emery said, the police department is considering an agreement to empower the review board's administrative prosecutors to quickly seek plea agreements with cops.

By city charter, the police commissioner has the final say on internal discipline. The maximum punishment possible is termination. The review board signed an agreement with the police department in 2012 giving it the power to prosecute officers for misconduct in internal trials, but their plea agreements have sometimes been overruled by police commissioners since then, weakening board prosecutors' leverage.

The potential new agreement would enable the police commissioner to approve a plea deal at the start of the administrative prosecution process. The board passed on Wednesday a resolution signaling its approval of the plan.

Emery said the police department and the board are setting up a working group to improve the disciplinary process in general -- and possibly to give the complaint review board more power.

"All of us agree that this system is broken, I guess would be a word that you could use, it's too complicated, too crazy, too confused," said Emery. "The whole point here is to try and have the police department ultimately give much more deference to the processes of this agency, because the processes of this agency are worthy of that deference."

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