NEW YORK – Civilian complaints against New York City police are down this year, especially in the months since the chokehold death of an unarmed black man by a white officer, according to data obtained Friday by The Associated Press.
Allegations of abuse of force, abuse of authority, offensive language and discourtesy were all down, according to the data by the Civilian Complaint Review Board, which investigates misconduct allegations against police.
There were 5,004 complaints by November 2013, compared with 4,150 this year. The first half of 2014 saw a 5 percent increase, especially in abuse of authority reports, but since July, when Eric Garner died, complaints have dropped, particularly with allegations of use of force. In all of 2012, the board received 5,741 complaints.
The figures come as New Yorkers react to the news this week that a grand jury declined to indict a police officer in Garner's death, amid a national discussion on the interaction between police officers and the communities they serve.
Garner, 43, was stopped by police July 17 on suspicion of selling loose, untaxed cigarettes. A video shot by an onlooker and widely viewed on the Internet shows Garner telling a group of police officers to leave him alone as they tried to arrest him. Officer Daniel Pantaleo responded by wrapping his arm around Garner's neck in what appears to be a chokehold, which is banned under NYPD policy. The heavyset Garner, who had asthma, was heard repeatedly gasping, "I can't breathe!" The grand jury decided that Pantaleo had done nothing criminal.
Mayor Bill de Blasio said the complaint numbers show that reforms under his administration aimed at "bridging the gap" between the NYPD and the community are working.
"We're steadily bringing crime down while drawing police and community closer together," he said. He touted Police Commissioner William Bratton as a force of change and said he hoped the three-day retraining on courtesy and use of force that began this week will lead to a continued drop in complaints.
Also Friday, complaint board chairman Richard Emery published on the website new city maps that break down complaints based on police precinct in the five boroughs. He said it was an effort to make the agency's trove of data, usually buried in monthly reports, more accessible and easy to read. The maps are also broken down by allegations, like use of force and abuse of authority. The information will be updated weekly.