NYCLU and ACLU to Court: Sexual Misconduct is Police Misconduct

Defending against police unions’ appeal, advocates tell Court that CCRB must have power to investigate complaints of police sexual violence and false official statements

Affiliate: ACLU of New York
July 30, 2021 10:45 am

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NEW YORK – Today the New York Civil Liberties Union and the American Civil Liberties Union filed an amicus brief to support the New York City Civilian Complaint Review Board’s ability to independently investigate incidences in which New Yorkers report NYPD sexual violence by police officers or incidents of false official statements by officers that arise during CCRB investigations.

“Every allegation of police sexual violence must be under the independent investigatory control of the CCRB, not hidden from public scrutiny and subject to NYPD impunity,” said Lupe Aguirre, staff attorney at the NYCLU. “Transparency and accountability are vital to vindicating the public’s right to complete information and recourse for the police misconduct that takes place in their communities. We’re taking action today to ensure that police unions’ latest efforts to thwart accountability are stopped in their tracks.”

In 2018, after the CCRB announced that it would begin to investigate complaints of police sexual violence, the city’s largest police union, the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association (PBA), filed a lawsuit challenging the CCRB’s sexual misconduct resolution. The New York Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU Women’s Rights Project filed an amicus brief supporting the CCRB against the PBA’s earlier challenge.

In response to the earlier challenge, a New York appeals court ruled the CCRB needed to use formal rule-making to authorize investigations of sexual misconduct. The CCRB did so earlier this year, with the NYCLU and ACLU supporting those rules. The PBA has again sued, and the brief the NYCLU and ACLU filed today is in response to that new case.

“There can be no doubt that when police perpetrate sexual violence and harassment, it is an abuse of authority that should trigger civilian review,” said Sandra Park, senior staff attorney at the ACLU Women’s Rights Project. “Forcing survivors to file complaints with the police department will only further silence them and empower officers to continue to commit sexual abuse.”

In courts, legislatures, and communities, the NYCLU takes action to bring transparency and accountability to police departments across the state. In New York City, the NYCLU maintains a database of more than 279,600 NYPD misconduct complaints dating back to before 1985 through mid-April 2021. The database holds records of all officers who have faced complaints from the public involving excessive force, abuse of authority, discourtesy and offensive language.

In addition to Aguirre and Park, NYCLU counsel includes legal director Chris Dunn and legal intern Roberto Tavel.

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