Post 13 Trivia – Civilian Complaints & Policeman’s Bill of Rights
John Young, Patrolman
July 1964 – The City Council wanted to establish a Police Review Board. PBA President John Cassese led a demonstration of 1200 off-duty policemen (in uniform) that marched around City Hall, in a unified demonstration of their opposition to the creation of a review board. The New York Times reported, “Cassese would use the P.B.A. treasury to fight the U.S.S.R. take-over of the police.”
November 1966 – John Lindsay was elected mayor based on his platform to form an “all civilian” police review board.
The late 1960’s was a period of protest and demonstrations by some Americans, college students and peace-nicks that were against the Viet Nam war. It was a time when police power was being challenged by the news media and liberal politicians. Remember the Daily News editorials and Jimmy Breslin’s columns? Even the U.S. Supreme Court was handing down decisions that favored criminals over the police and the public.
The battle for an “all civilian” review board ended on Election Day 1966, when New York City voters abolished Mayor Lindsay’s civilian-dominated board. The Department’s board was made up of Chief Clerk Louis L. Stutman, as Chairman, Abraham P. Chess, Edward McCabe, Joseph McDonough and Franklin Thomas, all civilian members of the department. Bernard H. Jackson served as the board’s Executive Director. Being a CCRB plank owner (having received CCRB No. 904 in 1966), I received a letter dated April 13, 1967 (on CCRB letterhead) stating that the complaint was investigated and their findings did not substantiate the allegations of the complaint. The Board recommended to the Police Commissioner that no further action be taken.
What’s interesting in the letter? The final paragraph stated, “Pursuant to the provisions of G.O. #14, dated May 17, 1966 (later Chapter 21, Rules & Procedures) and any amendments or changes thereto… this complaint is confidential and no notation of any kind shall be made in your personal folder on file with the department.”
Funny thing about civilian complaints, years later a Deputy Chief remarked about my complaints. He said if I was still on patrol he would have to monitor me because of the number of complaints I’d received. I reminded him that he must have gotten Question #47 on the 1974 Lieutenant’s test wrong because unfounded or unsubstantiated civilian complaints were confidential and no notation of any kind appear on the officer’s personal record file. Yea, right! By April 1980, CCRB disposition letters no longer contained that paragraph. It was replaced with the line…Thank you for your cooperation.
Perhaps the most important work rule that the PBA obtained was the Policeman’s Bill of Rights, which became known as General Order #15. Enacted in April 1967, today’s cops know it as Patrol Guide 118-9. However, the New York news media often call it the “Blue Wall of Silence.”
To be continued