NYPD Unveils New Guidelines for Officer Discipline

September 1, 2020 Updated: September 1, 2020

The New York Police Department (NYPD) on Aug. 31 rolled out a draft of new disciplinary guidelines following a review of the department’s disciplinary process.

The updated disciplinary guidelines (pdf) for the nation’s largest police force offer a more formal structure than before, and reportedly took over a year to develop. Described by lawmakers as a “disciplinary matrix,” they aim to make discipline rules within the department more transparent and less arbitrary.

New Yorkers were granted access to the guidelines online from Monday on the NYPD’s website, where they are able to submit comments. The public review period will last 30 days.

It comes at a time when law enforcement agencies around the world are being pressed to be more transparent about officer discipline in the wake of protests and riots over the in-custody death of George Floyd in Minneapolis in May.

News of the new draft guidelines was announced by New York Mayor Bill de Blasio and Police Commissioner Dermot Shea during a press conference Monday. The mayor told reporters it is part of his administration’s plan to fulfill The Obama Foundation pledge to address the use of force in policing, which he committed to in June.

“Reform goes beyond just changing policies. It means improving transparency, increasing accountability, and ensuring community engagement is centered in our approach,” de Blasio said.

Shea said he expects that the disciplinary guidelines will be finalized by January, and encouraged New Yorkers to visit the NYPD’s website to read about the matrix.

“There is a 30-day period where we’re asking for the public’s comments on this. And that’s something that seems intuitive but it hasn’t always been done. But it’s something we truly believe in in terms of knowing who you work for and we work for the public.”

Donovan Richards, a City Council member who chairs the public safety committee, said Monday the draft guidelines serve as a “major step” in ensuring the NYPD holds officers accountable for misconduct “in a fair and consistent manner.”

“The NYPD’s lack of a standard disciplinary system has long built mistrust between the department and the communities they serve,” he said.

Shea will, by law, still have the final say over how officers are disciplined for misconduct.

“New Yorkers deserve accountability in policing. By raising standards for discipline in law enforcement and establishing a transparent procedure that will make the NYPD more responsive to independent civilian oversight, the proposed disciplinary matrix serves as a significant first step to achieving greater accountability,” Civilian Complain Review Board chair Fred Davie said of the guidelines.

The Police Benevolent Association (PBA) meanwhile described the move in a statement as an attempt to “manipulate” NYPD discipline.

“Apparently mandatory minimums and sentencing guidelines are unfair to criminals but perfectly fine for cops. This matrix has nothing to do with fairness,” PBA president Patrick J. Lynch said. “It’s an avenue for the City Council’s policing ‘experts’—the ones who brought chaos back to NYC—to manipulate NYPD discipline to further their radical goals.”

“Just watch as the punishment guidelines are changed based on headlines and poll numbers, rather than any objective sense of justice or fairness,” he added.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.