Community View by retired policeman AJ Odze

As a 30 year career law enforcement officer that spent 15 years as Chief of Police for three federal agencies and a retired NYPD cop, I call upon our elected officials for change in policing. The discourse between civilians and police keeps growing each and every year. The single factor is the trust between the community and the police.

The New York City Police Department, which I was a member, is the only police agency in the state of New York that has 100 percent transparency. Some would say too much transparency. If a civilian lodges a complaint against any member of NYPD that complaint has several layers before final adjudication. There is the Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB), IAD, Trail Room for disciplinary action and finally the end result is at the desk of the Commissioner where he/she makes the final decision on adjudication. No other police agency in New York State has this process. The civilian complainant is advised of the status from beginning to end.

Outside of New York City there is little to no police oversight. Outdated laws allow police departments to shield a civilian complainant of the status of their complaint. This is just outrageous. It lends itself to a clandestine process. So if a cop is the subject of a civilian complaint and part of the good-old- boy network then that complaint could and most probably goes nowhere. There is zero oversight.

Case in point, I personally filed a racial profiling complaint against a city of Newburgh cop. The cop fabricated a traffic violation. When the cop exited his unmarked radio car he was screaming in the street, “Where is the black guy?” Growing up in New York City, I am accustomed to having friends and/or acquaintances of every race, religion and sex.

The City of Newburgh PD sent me an e mail inquiry of my complaint. I identified witnesses. I ran into the cop that I filed the complaint against later on and he laughed at me for filing a civilian complaint. He said it himself that they don’t bother with them. I conferred with several lawyers that practice within the city of Newburgh and all stated, while they city accepts civilian complaints they are not entertained.

The mayor, city council and police chief all remained silent on this issue. I even demanded Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney empanel a federal police monitor, which he refused to do. NYPD and Newark have federal police monitors. The City of Newburgh must have a federal police monitor to oversee the police department, mayor and city council.

There was a bill several years ago to create a NYS Civilian Complaint Review Board based upon the NYPD. The bill died several times. I recommended the creation of a County Wide Civilian Complaint Review Board. Again, this recommendation went no where.

In order to foster a civilian / police relationship there must be trust. The only way trust can be achieved is through transparency. There must be either a county or State of New York Civilian Complaint Review Board. This way when a civilian files a civilian complaint against a police officer the community will know the status of the complaint from beginning to end. There can be no conversation on how to build better relationships within communities when police departments chose secrecy over transparency.

AJ Odze
Retired Chief of Police USDOT, former officer NYPD

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