OPEN LETTER: Why the Disinterest in Sustained Civilian Complaints by New Rochelle Community-Police Partnership Board?

OPEN LETTER: Why the Disinterest in Sustained Civilian Complaints by New Rochelle Community-Police Partnership Board?

NEW ROCHELLE, NY (December 2, 2022) — The New Rochelle City Council adopted a Policing Reform and Collaborative Plan based on a state mandate in the wake of the murder of George Floyd. This plan resulted in the creation of a Community-Police Partnership Board.

The objective of proponents of the Policing Reform and Collaborative Plan is a New Rochelle Civilian Complaint Review Board, with which they fancy the NRPD will be held accountable; for what is unstated.

On April 21, 2021, Mayor Noam Bramson described the Board this way:

In March (2021), the New Rochelle City Council adopted a Policing Reform and Collaborative Plan, intended to enhance the quality, transparency and fairness of law enforcement practices in New Rochelle, while also providing our Police Department with the support and tools necessary to discharge its vital mission. The Plan contains multiple components and recommendations, including the creation of a thirteen-member Community-Police Partnership Board (CPPB).

READ: Community-Police Partnership Board Nominations Proposed to New Rochelle City Council

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Setting aside how insensate this idea is, given there are so few cases in New Rochelle that would ever involve a Civilian Complaint Review Board — maybe one every couple of years — the most important thing a serious-minded CPPB would need to research and understand is the history of sustained civilian complaints against the New Rochelle Police Department.

It is not as if the NRPD’s history of sustained civilian complaints has nothing to do with a discussion of whether and how to create a board to Review civilian complaints. The name sort of gives it a way.

What does it say that a group of cops and government officials (almost every CPPB member works in the public sector at some level) are spending a year and a half meeting and listening and hiring consultants to justify a Civilian Complaint Review Board but refuse to even inquire let alone study the history of actual civilian complaints.

The most obvious explanation is that the CPPB is not a serious undertaking; it is the usual municipal committee filled with people glorifying their decoration of chairs while accomplishing nothing — with the apparent purpose of decorating chairs on a future Civilian Complaint Review Board. More resume-burnishing to no real purpose.

I have attended every CPPB meeting save one at 570 Fifth Avenue which was held in secret.

No one on the CPPB or attending a CPPB meeting, other than me, has ever asked anything about civilian complaints let alone sustained civilian complaints.

I raised the issue multiple times over recent months, asking that the CPPB request and make public information on sustained civilian complaints received by the NRPD Internal Affairs Department to no avail. I wrote a letter in October (ignored) and another letter (ignored) saying that given a lack of response I would publish my letters.

So, he we are with me publishing the letters.

I believe there is a reason why the CPPB and especially the NRPD, does not want to provide the information I seek. In my research in 2021 on thousands of NRPD disciplinary files over the last 50 years I found just one sustained civil complaint. Later, a year ago, I filed a civil complaint that was sustained. That makes two sustained civil complaints in five decades. With that track record, why does anyone think a Civilian Complaint Review Board will improve on 2 every 25 years.

Here are my two letters, also sent to Erika Rosenberg of Center for Governmental Research. CGR is the consultant hired by the CPPB to pave the way for a New Rochelle Civilian Complaint Review Board.

Letter 1

From: Robert Cox

Date: On Oct 25, 2022 at 9:07 AM

Subject: CPPB/Sustained Civilian Complaints

To: Gazzola, Robert, Rev. Holder,

Cc: Angela Farrish, Mark McLean

As some of you know, after the repeal of 50-a I made over 800 individual FOIL requests for as many then-current, then-former New Rochelle Police Department officers. I received back thousands of documents covering decades including the CO 2’s (New Rochelle Police Department Individual Delinquency Record) and the corresponding Command Discipline Report and Stipulation of Settlement. As these documents covered a span of 50 years they were command disciplines issued under many senior commanders including many IA officers.

In the belief that incoming heads of the Internal Affairs Unit and their superiors would be unlikely to go back and read through all preceding CO 2’s, Command Discipline Reports and Stipulations of Settlement, I venture to say that I am the only person to have done so and therefore I am highly qualified to comment on these matters.

I might add that I have an MBA from the University of Chicago with a double major in Economics and Strategy and lots of training and experience involving data analysis.

In short, you should listen to me as I am well qualified.

One of the CPPB topics covered regularly is civilian IA Complaints. The discussion has been framed incorrectly. Whether that is deliberate or not I could not say but it is certainly wrong.

The data I mentioned is NOT contained within the 2021 annual report for NRPD (or any prior report) which has a table listing total civilian complaints then breaks down the total by type (use of force, abuse of authority, discourtesy, bias, miscellaneous). I would think many people in the room last night would know I would not ask my question if I did not already know that.

The co-chair report from Commissioner Gazzola listed the type of civilian IA complaints (use of force, abuse of authority, discourtesy, bias, miscellaneous, property), the type of disposition (founded/sustained, unsubstantiated, exoneration, unfounded), intake (in-person, phone, mail, online, third-party).

Not stated was the type of disciplinary action taken from a SUSTAINED civilian IA complaint (letter of reprimand, loss of day, loss of leave day, suspension from special duty detail, probation, retraining, suspension days, termination/resignation).

I am asking for something very different: SUSTAINED civilian IA complaints and the RESULTING DISCIPLINARY ACTION for those sustained complaints (letter of reprimand, lost days, suspension, termination),

Having read through thousands of pages of records of sustained IA complaints spanning five decades received by June 2021, I can tell you that I found just one sustained IA complaint that stated it was based on a civilian complaint. The command discipline was a letter of reprimand.

Maybe there are more but I only found one.

In September 2021, I made a civilian complaint which was sustained. The command discipline was loss of a day so that makes two.

It is not enough to tabulate how many civilian IA complaints are FILED or categorize those complaints by type. That table should include the disposition of the complaints and the resulting command discipline.

It is also not enough to compare the current year to the previous year.

I believe the NRPD and the CPPB (and all concerned citizens) would like to see a decline in all manner of problematic police issues including all manner of disciplinary issues. You are not going to know if you are succeeding if you are not tracking OUTCOMES and doing so on a longitudinal basis (over 10 years?).

In the case I am addressing here, if there is one sustained civilian IA complaint every 25 years that could indicate that there are very few founded complaints. Based on the CPPB meeting at Heritage Homes and speaking to attendees afterwards, it can also be that the civilian complainant was not well-equipped to craft a complaint in a way likely to result in a sustained complaint (i.e., not a lawyer) or having made the complaint, and not believing anything would happen, failed to follow up on their complaint.

I expect that the data I asked for last night will show that sustained civilian IA complaints are unicorns. That should be worrisome unless you believe there are no legitimate complaints to be made by civilians.

Once the CPPB understands the outcomes members could then start asking better questions.

Putting a civilian IA complaint form online or relocating the IA offices out of 475 North makes sense from the NRPD perspective but does nothing to address what I expect is the underlying explanation for so few sustained IA complaints — not knowing how to craft a complaint and document a complaint to give the IAU what they need to sustain the complaint.

In my case, I filed a 50 page complaint with numerous exhibits including photographs, video and police reports. I would bet that of the 3-4 dozen annual civilian IA complaints received none looked like mine. And not only was my complaint sustained but the command discipline took money out of the officer’s pocket unlike a letter of reprimand.

If the NRPD/CPPB takes steps to help civilians submit better complaints (not just make it easier to submit one) there cannot help but be an increase in sustained complaints resulting in command discipline. On a chart that will LOOK like failure because there will be a spike in sustained complaints resulting in command discipline. It would actually show success if your goal is to improve community and police relations. It would show that such complaints are taken seriously and result in real outcomes. Overtime, I fully expect that data would trend down as NRPD uses the information to train officers at which point you have real information based on meaningful data with positive results.

Short of the suggestions above, your discussions about civilian IA complaints — the total number of complaints rather than sustained complaints resulting in command discipline — is pointless if your goal is to improve community and police relations.

Once you publish this data, the next step would be to create an independent place for people with IA complaints to go to get help on how to craft the complaint and support them in the follow-up.

I can imagine all the reasons some in office might find these ideas appalling, but they are not my audience for my analysis or recommendations. My audience is the residents of New Rochelle.


Robert Cox

Letter 2

From: Robert Cox

Date: On Fri, Dec 2, 2022 at 9:15 AM

Subject: Fwd: SUSTAINED civilian IA complaints and the RESULTING DISCIPLINARY ACTION

To: Gazzola, Robert, Rev. Holder,

Cc: Angela Farrish, Mark McLean

Dear CCPB Co-Chairs,

I raised the issue of SUSTAINED civilian IA complaints and the RESULTING DISCIPLINARY ACTION about a year ago. I publicly asked for data at your quarterly meeting on 10/24/22 and sent a follow up email. I asked on the side of the listening tour stop at Beth El on 11/16. I was promised this data but still do not have any of it.

My view is that this is not something I should have needed to ask for at all but a topic that should have been raised by committee members from day one as it is central to the entire point of the CPPB. At the very least you might think at least one attendee at listening tour stops would have raised this crucial topic.

At this point, I give up. I am just going to raise the issue publicly by publishing my previous letter in the hope that SOME community members or CPPB members might share my concern that a body tasked with exploring the creation of a Civilian Complaint Review Board ought to first ground that exploration in the context of NRPD’s history of investigating Civilian Internal Affairs Complaints about police officers going as far back as there is data and information (about 50 years).

The name of the department is telling: INTERNAL Affairs. The name reflects the mindset — that an investigation of a police officer is laundry never to be aired in public and certainly not something to be instigated by someone outside of the department.

A civilian complaint by definition is not INTERNAL so the name anticipates that an EXTERNAL complaint by a civilian, likely a resident of New Rochelle, is unwelcome. Anyone who files a civilian complaint is doing so about an interaction with a member or members of the NRPD in the field — external to headquarters. The CPPB talks a lot about this in the abstract but without hard data to provide context the talk is to no purpose.

I hope the NRPD will change its mind and produce the data before hearing from the consultants tasked with recommendations on a Civilian Complaint Review Board. Failure to do so raises serious questions as to the integrity of the work of the CPPB.


Robert Cox


New Rochelle Community-Police Partnership Board Listening Tour

Stop 1 - Bethesda Baptist (9/30/21)

New Rochelle Community-Police Partnership Board is Not a Path Towards Transparency and Accountability

Stop 2 - Mascaro Unit of the Boys’ & Girls’ Clubs (10/27/21)

Time Running Out to Salvage New Rochelle Community-Police Partnership Board

Stop 3 - The Hollow / Bracey (11/30/22)

New Rochelle Community-Police Partnership Board Holds Third Stop on Listening Tour at The Hollow

Stop 4 - Heritage Homes (12/8/21)

Heritage Homes Residents Get Real with New Rochelle Community-Police Partnership Board at Fourth Stop on Listening Tour

Stop 5 - 570 Fifth (6/22/22)

Not advertised at all until minutes before it began so I did not cover this “secret” meeting and have nothing to report.

Stop 6 - Beth El (10/23/22)

New Rochelle Community-Police Partnership Board Holds Sixth (and Final) Stop on Listening Tour

Community Police Partnership Board Meeting Raw Notes October 13, 2021

Community Police Partnership Board Meeting Raw Notes October 23, 2022

Read more