The NYPD conducted 180 improper entries and searches from January 2010 through October 2015, according to an analysis by the Civilian Complaint Review Board released Tuesday. The board, an independent agency empowered to investigate claims of police misconduct, looked at 1,762 complaints about entries and searches made during that span.
As DNAinfo reports, bad searches typically occurred for one of two reasons: the officers’ misunderstanding of the grounds that would justify entry without a warrant, or the use of an outdated warrant. In some cases, officers used intimidation and threats of “arrest, eviction, damage, force, or [a call to Administration for Children’s Services],” according to the report. Here’s one of the incidents described in the report:
In a 2014 case, a civilian owned a building with a barbershop and money transfer business on the ground floor, and his apartment on the second floor. Officers assigned to Conditions entered the barbershop and the closed-off area of the money transfer business to search for a gun, and also frisked the occupants. The shop owner asked the sergeant, who had no badge, what was going on and was told to “shut the f— up.” Officers threatened to “trash the place” if they were not taken up to the second floor apartment to view footage from surveillance cameras recording activities on the ground floor. Eventually one individual took them to the upstairs apartment because he felt that “things would only get worse” if he did not. The shop owner filed a CCRB complaint because the officers had “no search warrant” and “violated his rights.” The CCRB found that consent to search was coerced, in that police acted in an intimidating fashion by cursing at and pressuring the civilians into allowing access.
“Intrusion into people’s homes is among the most serious violations of basic constitutional protections and really a basic human right,” CCRB board chair Richard Emery told DNAinfo.
According to the report (which you can read in its entirety here), African-Americans comprised roughly 55 percent of the victims in substantiated complaints, which is “consistent with CCRB complaints generally.” The report found that white individuals made up 4 percent.
The greatest number of improper entries, searches, and instances of a failure to show a warrant occurred between 5 a.m. and 8 a.m. (All but 30 occurred between 5 a.m. and 10 a.m.) Nearly half occurred in Brooklyn. The NYPD told the CCRB that it has imposed discipline in 64 percent of the cases it has reviewed so far.
The Times adds that the report criticizes the NYPD’s internal rule book for failing to detail that a warrant, or probable cause, is needed for searches and seizures in homes. The report also notes that the department’s rule book provides no guidance on the kinds of emergencies that allow officers to enter homes without them. “We are going to decide if this is something that needs to be more clearly clarified, in terms of either interpreting the exigent circumstances that drive a lot of these or having officers properly explaining the reasons for their actions,” said Stephen P. Davis, the NYPD’s chief spokesperson.
The report makes a number of recommendations to the NYPD, including the use of body cameras for officers during home entries and a revision of the department’s Patrol Guide to include a stand-alone section on the law of searches and seizures.