Skip navigation

Cripa Schenectady Ny Investigation and Recommendations 3-19-03

Download original document:
Brief thumbnail
This text is machine-read, and may contain errors. Check the original document to verify accuracy.
U.S. Department of Justice
Civil Rights Division

Special Litigation Section - PHB
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC 20530

March 19, 2003
Mr. Michael T. Brockbank
Schenectady Corporation Counsel
Room 201
City Hall
Jay Street
Schenectady, NY 12305

Investigation of the Schenectady Police Department

Dear Mr. Brockbank:
As you know, the Civil Rights Division is conducting an
investigation of the Schenectady Police Department (“SPD”),
pursuant to the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of
1994, 42 U.S.C. § 14141 and the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe
Streets Act of 1968, 42 U.S.C. § 3789d(c)(3). We would like to
take this opportunity to express our appreciation for the
cooperation we have received thus far from the City of
Schenectady (“City”) and the SPD.
Since the investigation began, we have met with City
officials, reviewed current SPD policies and interviewed numerous
SPD officers, including command-level and line officers, attended
police academy training, and ridden along with SPD patrol
officers. Additionally, we are in the process of reviewing SPD
documents. Based on our preliminary review, we have identified
several areas of concern along with recommendations for
addressing these concerns.
Important aspects of our fact-gathering process have yet to
be completed, most notably reviewing incident reports included in
the documents we received from the City and obtaining the
remaining materials requested on August 15, 2002 but not yet
received from the City. Therefore, this letter is not meant to
be exhaustive, but rather focuses on significant concerns we have

- 2 
identified and recommendations we can provide based on the first
phase of our investigation. We may identify additional issues as
our investigation progresses.
The issues identified below focus on the following areas:
SPD policies, use of force, investigations, external complaints,
discipline, supervisory oversight, and training.
Some of the concerns discussed below also have been
identified by the new Public Safety Commissioner and Chief of
Police whom we met in October 2002. We were encouraged that they
had identified areas for reform in the SPD and look forward to
their achievements. We are further encouraged by the working
relationship that appears to be developing between the PBA and
the new SPD leadership. We hope that this relationship will
foster an increase in communication and consensus.

SPD policies


Officers receive a copy of the SPD Manual when they join the
department. The manual contains General Orders, Interim Orders
and several Memoranda.1 SPD policy requires the manual to be
updated with new General Orders as they are issued. The unit
commander2 is responsible for distributing new General Orders and
for obtaining an officer’s signature indicating the order was
received. According to officers we spoke with, they received a
manual upon joining the force but have not received additional
General Orders as they are issued. Command level staff
acknowledge that the SPD did not distribute the SPD Manual for a

General Orders are permanent procedures and programs.
Interim Orders are temporary or self-canceling in nature.
Memoranda are used for instructions that do not affect the entire
department or as a means to notify SPD personnel of newly created
and vacant positions. The SPD also issues Personnel Orders but
those are not contained in the Manual.

The unit commander is a lieutenant. Currently, the SPD
consists of three Bureaus each headed by an Assistant Chief: the
Field Services Bureau, the Investigative Services Bureau and the
Administrative Services/Support Services Bureau. Each Bureau
consists of several units, or platoons, which are led by a

- 3 
one and a half year period beginning in 2000 and that the only
time the SPD complied with the signed General Order distribution
policy was between 1992 and 1994.
Although the unit commander is not required to distribute
Interim Orders, Personnel Orders or Memoranda, SPD policy
requires these documents, as well as General Orders, to be posted
on designated clip boards in the station house. We found that
policies have not been posted as required. For example, during
our May 2002 tour, we alerted the SPD when we discovered that the
designated clipboards did not contain any policies issued after
1998. When we returned in October 2002, the clipboards were
updated. If Interim Orders, Personnel Orders and Memoranda are
not distributed or posted regularly, SPD officers may not be
aware of important SPD policies and policy changes. In addition,
officers cannot be held accountable for non-compliance with SPD
policies that they did not receive.
We recommend that the SPD ensure that every officer is
issued an SPD Manual and that officers maintain manuals that
contain all current policies regardless of their classification
as General or Interim Orders. We recommend that the SPD enforce
its requirement that officers acknowledge receipt in writing of
new General Orders and expand that mandate to include Interim
Orders. Also, the SPD should comply consistently with its policy
requiring the posting of all policies in the designated


Policies should be clear, comprehensive and accessible.
Existing SPD policies are often ambiguous and contain undefined
terms. For example, the SPD Respect for Human Rights policy
contains a specific prohibition on ethnic slurs and racially
derogatory comments, but only a very general prohibition on
“harassment/discrimination.” The policy does not define
“harassment” or “discrimination,” or provide officers with
concrete prohibitions on the inappropriate and unconstitutional
use of race or ethnicity as a basis for police actions, such as
uses of force, searches and seizures.
The SPD has no policy regarding certain basic police
functions, such as arrest and foot pursuit, and safety concerns
such as exposure to tuberculosis or blood born pathogens. The
failure to develop relevant policies may contribute to the use of

- 4 -

“official unwritten policies” by the SPD. In the course of two
2001 federal court proceedings, the SPD acknowledged an official,
unwritten strip search policy, and SPD officers testified to an
official unwritten “relocation” policy. Both policies were found
Included in the SPD Manual is a policy stating that SPD
officers are to follow the New York State Police, Manual For
Police ("NYSP Manual”) when the SPD lacks a relevant policy.
This “catch-all” policy provision does not adequately identify
for SPD officers relevant and applicable policies. Officers
should be able to reference readily all information related to a
specific policy; therefore, policies should not be dispersed over
a number of manuals. Furthermore, the SPD does not train
officers on NYSP policies and has no protocol for informing and
training SPD officers when modifications are made to relevant
policies in the NYSP Manual.
We recommend that the SPD review all policies to ensure
critical terms are defined and actions at issue are clearly
authorized or prohibited by the SPD. We further recommend that
the SPD develop a policy providing specific guidance to officers
on when consideration of race may be appropriate and
We recommend that the SPD develop comprehensive policies and
procedures that provide officers with specific guidance in
performing the full range of police duties. If the SPD adopts
specific NYSP policies, those policies should be contained in the
SPD Manual and incorporated into the SPD training program. We
also recommend that the SPD arrange its policies in a manner that
allows immediate access to a complete policy, such as by
organizing the policies according to subject matter
(administrative, operations, investigations, personnel, technical
services, etc.)


SPD policy requires General Orders to be reviewed on their
anniversary date. According to SPD command staff, General Orders
are not reviewed. Policies should be reevaluated on a regular
basis to ensure they incorporate accepted, modern police
practices. For example, in 1991, the SPD issued a General Order
related to vehicular pursuits. It appears that this policy has
not been reevaluated in several years, if ever.

- 5 Similarly, SPD policy requires periodic review of Interim
Orders to evaluate whether they should be adopted as General
Orders. As with General Orders, the SPD does not reassess the
Interim Orders as required. For example, the SPD use of force
policy is an Interim Order. The policy was issued in 1998 and
the section on the order that identifies the reevaluation date is
We recommend that the SPD regularly review all policies to
ensure that they are clear, appropriate and current. The SPD
should enforce its policy requiring the reexamination of all
General Orders over one year old and the regular evaluation of
Interim Orders.

Use of force

The SPD use of force policy is an Interim Order. This
single policy includes the SPD general use of force policy, use
of force options, progression of force, and reporting
We recommend that the SPD develop a permanent and
comprehensive use of force policy. The SPD should consider
developing a series of separate but related General Orders
providing comprehensive guidelines for the use of force, each
force option, the progression of force and the use of force
reporting policy.

Use of force policy

The SPD general use of force policy contains vague language
and undefined terms. According to the policy, an officer is
permitted to use force “to effectively bring an incident under
control,” and “to restrain or subdue an uncooperative or
resistive individual.” These statements do not limit the use of
force to effecting a lawful arrest or to protecting an officer or
another, and therefore, implicitly may allow for unconstitutional
uses of force. As written, the policy may lead officers to
believe they are justified in using force in situations in which
force would be unreasonable.
Although SPD policy states that physical force “should be
reasonable,” it fails to define “reasonable” force. Furthermore,
by stating that force “should” be reasonable, the policy may
suggest implicitly that reasonable force is a preferred option,

- 6 
instead of a mandate. One officer we spoke with informed us that
some uses of force were based on the personal style of an officer
and that in a situation where he would question an individual at
a distance, another officer would “yoke” the individual, and yet
another officer would force the individual against a wall with
his hand twisted behind his back. Although it is true that an
officer may choose not to use force in a situation where force
would be justified, this anecdote suggests that some SPD officers
apply a subjective standard in using force. All uses of force
must be reasonable with the reasonableness of the force evaluated
by an objective standard, not an officer’s personal style.
Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386, 397 (1989). The policy further
fails to identify specific uses of physical force that may be
prohibited or restricted to limited circumstances by the SPD.
For example, the force policy does not indicate whether carotid
holds, hog-tying or other uses of physical force are authorized
by the SPD.
Similarly, the policy inadequately addresses “deadly force.”
According to SPD policy, deadly physical force is justified “when
an officer reasonably believes that another person is using or
about to use deadly physical force;” however, the policy does not
limit the use of deadly force to situations involving an imminent
threat to the life of the officer or another person. In fact,
the policy appears to state that the use of deadly force may be
justified even when there is no imminent threat to the life of
the officer or another person.3 Furthermore, the SPD policy does
not adequately identify types of force that constitute deadly
force. The policy identifies firearms as a deadly force option
and indicates that the police baton “may” constitute deadly
force. However, the policy fails to identify what uses of the
baton constitute deadly force and fails to indicate that a strike
to the head with an impact weapon, including a police radio or
flashlight, is an application of deadly force. Similarly, the
policy fails to identify uses of physical force which may
constitute deadly force, such as the application of a choke hold.
We recommend that the SPD develop a use of force policy that
limits the use of force to affecting a lawful arrest or to
“Even though an officer may be justified in using
deadly physical force, the officer should make a reasonable
attempt to assess the following elements that must be present for
an offender to constitute an immediate deadly threat...” Use of
Physical Force, SPD Interim Order No: 98-12, at V.A.2.

- 7 
protecting an officer or another from an imminent threat of harm.
The policy should clearly and accurately define all terms
including reasonable force (i.e., the minimum amount of force
necessary to effect the arrest or protect the officer or other
person). The use of force policy also should specify the types
of physical force that are approved, limited and prohibited, as
well as the circumstances in which the force is approved. We
recommend that the SPD clarify its use of deadly force policy and
explicitly limit the use of deadly force to situations involving
an imminent threat of death or serious physical injury to an
officer or other person. The policy should identify all uses of
force that constitute deadly force, such as a strike to the head
with an impact weapon or a choke hold.

Use of force options

The SPD use of force policy lists four use of force options:
police baton, chemical spray, police canine and firearm. The
baton may not be available as a force option to all officers, as
SPD policy only recommends, and does not require, that the baton
be carried on all calls. In addition, the use of force policy
identifies a police canine option; however, the SPD did not have
a canine unit between 1998, the year the use of force policy was
issued, and October 2002 when it began to develop a canine team.
Overall, this policy does not provide adequate information on
when and how the listed force options may be used or on the
availability of other force options, such as physical force.
We recommend that the SPD identify physical force as an
option and develop a comprehensive policy governing the use of
each force option. We recommend that the SPD establish specific
guidelines regarding when officers are required to carry batons.
As the SPD continues to develop a canine team, we recommend that
the SPD clearly define the limitations on use of canines and
adopt a detailed "find and bark" policy as opposed to a "find and
bite" policy. A find and bark policy prevents canines from
biting subjects in situations in which force is not necessary to
effect an arrest or protect the safety of officers or others.

Progression of force

The SPD progression of force identifies six levels of force:
1) verbal direction, 2) physical direction, 3) chemical agent, 4)
police baton, 5) police canine and 6) firearm. The progression
adds verbal and physical direction to the four force options

- 8 
previously discussed. SPD policy presents the levels as a static
and inflexible model. The policy does not describe how the
various force options may be used, how the various applications
of the options affect their placement in the progression or what
level of force is appropriate in response to what type of
SPD policy identifies several prohibitions on the use of a
firearm but fails to provide any guidance as to the proper uses
of the police baton. Similarly, the SPD canine policy fails to
provide sufficient guidance to officers on the circumstances in
which it is appropriate to deploy a canine. The policy approves
the use of a canine "to apprehend a person whom the officer
reasonably believes is committing or has committed a violent
misdemeanor or a felony." However, the policy does not define
"violent misdemeanor" or identify the types of felony
apprehensions in which canine deployment would be appropriate.
The chemical spray option is the only force option with
which related documents were provided, specifically a training
handout and Field Services Bureau Memorandum. The training
handout provides some guidance on the appropriate application of
chemical spray; however, as with each force option, the
information regarding its use is neither included nor referenced
in the use of force policy. The Field Services Bureau Memorandum
provided contains guidelines for decontamination following the
use of pepper spray yet indicates that flushing the suspects face
and eyes is optional and that the effects of pepper spray should
dissipate within 45 minutes without decontamination. Medical
attention is mandated only if symptoms persist beyond 45 minutes.
The decontamination guidelines similarly are not contained or
referenced in the use of force policy. Furthermore, the
guidelines only apply to SPD officers assigned to the Field
Service Bureau.
We recommend that the SPD adopt a progression of force model
that describes the available force options on a continuum. For
example, the model should specify the various applications of the
baton in the force continuum and that it’s position in the
continuum is based on the manner in which it is used rather than
the instrument itself: the baton is a lower level of force when
used as a defensive weapon, e.g., to block a punch or other
striking an individual’s lower legs is an offensive use
of the baton, which is a higher application of force in the
continuum; finally, a head-strike with the baton is a deadly use

- 9 
of force at the highest level of the force continuum. We also
recommend that the SPD adopt a progression of force model that
relates the appropriate officer response to the specific actions
of a suspect. For example, if a suspect is striking or kicking
an officer, the model would identify appropriate officer
responses such as the use of a baton as a defensive weapon, to
block a punch or kick. The policy should clearly incorporate or
reference all relevant policies and guidelines. The SPD should
train all officers in these options and policies. We further
recommend that the SPD develop a detailed, department-wide policy
that requires prompt decontamination each time pepper spray is

Use of force reporting

SPD policy requires the documentation of all uses of force
other than “verbal direction.” Therefore, SPD officers are
required to document all uses of force in the progression,
including all “physical direction” which is defined to include
physical contact “as slight as a touch.” The policy thus
theoretically requires the documentation of every arrest, as even
unresisted handcuffing involves “a touch.” Despite this very
broad reporting requirement, command level and line officers
acknowledge that officers rarely document uses of force and that
supervisors do not enforce the reporting policy. We also
understand that no one in the SPD monitors the use of pepper
spray and that officers are permitted to replace a can of pepper
spray whenever their can is empty. As a matter of practice in
the SPD, many uses of force are not reported and, therefore,
officers who use force in an inappropriate or unconstitutional
manner are not identified and corrected.
According to SPD policy, uses of force are to be documented
on the Standard Incident Report (“SIR”). The SIR is an incidentbased report which by policy is used to document all policecitizen interactions, including those which do not result in an
arrest. The SPD does not use SIRs to count or track uses of
force, and it would be extremely difficult to do so because the
SIRs are used to report other police actions, are not entered
into a computerized database and often lack specificity. For
example, an SIR may allude to multiple uses of force by multiple
officers occurring in a single incident but provide only
conclusory language such as, the subject “struggled with
officers” or “resisted arrest.” The SIRs that indicate force was
used often fail to identify the individual officers who used

- 10 
force, the actual force used, and the subject’s actions which
served as the predicate for the force.
In addition, the SPD introduced Resisting Arrest Packets in
2001, which require the reporting of all resisting arrest
allegations. The Resisting Arrest Packets were introduced
without a formal policy. The instructions on the pre-printed
packets indicate that a packet must be completed if an individual
resisted arrest, even if the individual is not charged with
resisting arrest. The resisting arrest packets improve on the
current policy regarding use of force reporting by identifying:
a time frame in which the use of force information must be
recorded; the responsibility of the first line supervisor to
ensure force is documented; and a procedure for the information
to be provided to the chain of command. However, Resisting
Arrest Packets are not required for every incident involving a
use of force and, therefore, are not a substitute for a
comprehensive use of force reporting policy.
We are informed that the SPD is considering a new use of
force reporting procedure and the development of a use of force
form. We have received one draft reporting procedure and two
draft use of force forms. The draft reporting procedure
indicates that it will replace the documentation requirements of
the SPD use of force policy and the Resisting Arrest Packets.
The draft procedure improves on the current reporting policy by
including the time frame, supervisory responsibility, and chain
of command aspects of the resisting arrest packets. The draft
reporting procedure further improves on the current reporting
policy by requiring reporting of off-duty uses of force. The
draft procedure retains the potentially over-broad requirement
that all uses of force in excess of verbal direction, including
unresisted handcuffing, be reported. In addition, although the
draft reporting procedure appropriately identifies several
purposes for collecting use of force data, such as identification
of training needs and investigation of civilian complaints, the
SPD has not developed a protocol to ensure these goals are met.
The two draft use of force forms are incident based forms
which rely heavily on check boxes and yes/no answers in addition
to a narrative section. Check boxes are an appropriate means to
gather particular information; however, to be effective the check
boxes used should be comprehensive and provide for sufficient
detail. For example, there is a yes/no option to the question of
whether the officer or subject was injured but no requirement

- 11 that the officer completing the form also specify the exact
injury and how that injury occurred. Another example is the
yes/no option to the question of whether the officer or subject
was hospitalized but no requirement that the officer completing
the form also specify whether the individual was treated at the
scene or by a personal physician. Similarly, the forms do not
allow for adequate witness statements or supervisory review.
There is a single line to identify witnesses but no space or
instruction for indicating whether, how or by whom a witnesses’
statement was documented. There is a single line for supervisors
to sign the form but no space or instruction for the supervisors’
written evaluations. Finally, the forms contain check boxes
where the officer can indicate whether, in the officer’s opinion,
the arrestee was “impaired” by alcohol, drugs or mental illness
but no requirement that the officer record the specific factual
basis for that opinion.
We recommend that the SPD adopt a policy that requires
reporting for all uses of physical or instrumental force beyond
unresisted handcuffing on a form dedicated solely to recording
use of force information. The form should be able to record
discrete information about multiple uses of force by multiple
officers in a single incident. The form should require an
officer to provide a detailed description of the incident,
beginning with the basis for the initial contact, continuing
through the specific circumstances and actions that prompted each
use of force and the specific injuries and medical treatment.
Check boxes should be supported by a narrative, where
appropriate. The form should include a section to indicate
whether the named witnesses provided statements and for
supervisors to evaluate each use of force. The reporting
procedures should include the improvements noted above in the
Resisting Arrest Packets and the draft reporting procedure
specifically, a time frame in which the use of force information
must be recorded, the responsibility of the first line supervisor
to ensure force is documented, and a procedure for the
information to be provided to the chain of command. Further, a
mechanism should be established to ensure compliance with the
reporting procedures.
The information regarding each use of force should be
tracked in an early warning system (EWS), as discussed below.
The SPD should train all officers in use of force reporting and
in the use of the new use of force form.

- 12 

Use of force review and investigation

Although the current SPD policy requires use of force
reporting, it does not require supervisors to review or
investigate uses of force. In addition, neither the Resisting
Arrest Packets nor the draft use of force reporting procedure
would require supervisory review or investigation of a use of
force. Use of force investigations and review are important
because they would allow the SPD to identify and correct the
actions of officers who use force in an inappropriate or
unconstitutional manner and to identify training needs.
We recommend that the SPD establish a policy requiring the
investigation and review of all uses of force (defined as any
force beyond un-resisted handcuffing). We recommend that the SPD
establish guidelines regarding the initiation of the review and
investigation process and the circumstances in which an officer’s
supervisor is required to make command notifications and to
respond to the scene to gather and preserve evidence and ensure
injured person(s) receive prompt medical attention.
We also recommend that the Professional Standards Office
(discussed below), or other specialized unit, be responsible for
responding to the scene and investigating serious uses of force
such as, uses of force in which the subject is visibly injured or
complains of pain, uses of force that require hospitalization or
result in death, and all head strikes and firearm discharges,
except discharges in the course of training or certification.
The SPD policy should include guidelines which determine whether
an incident is investigated by the officer’s Bureau or by the
specialized unit.
The policy should require the officer assigned to
investigate an incident to evaluate each use of force as well as
any instance of potential officer misconduct discovered in the
course of the investigation. The investigating officer should be
required to refer any incident of potential misconduct to the
Professional Standards Office.


Professional Standard’s Office

In 1991, the SPD created the Professional Standards Office
("PSO") which serves as the department’s internal affairs

- 13 
division. Until recently, the PSO was accountable to the
Investigative Services Bureau Commander. During our October 2002
tour, we were informed that the PSO is now directly accountable
to the Chief. This re-organization appears to be a positive
The PSO, however, has only three sworn officers, a
lieutenant and two sergeants (both sergeant positions were added
to the unit recently). In addition to conducting various
investigations, the PSO is responsible for employee background
checks and for video and audio reproduction and storage.
Recently, the PSO was assigned a vehicle for the first time.
While this is an improvement, PSO staff indicate that the lack of
staff and transportation continues to impair timely and quality
The PSO has no staff eligibility criteria. Because all
positions in the SPD have historically been assigned by
seniority, the PSO Lieutenant position has served as a right of
passage for a sergeant moving to the rank of lieutenant, as it is
generally the first and only available lieutenant position for an
officer newly promoted from the rank of sergeant. The PSO
Lieutenant typically transfers out of the position as soon as
another lieutenant position is available. In addition, the new
PSO Lieutenant generally comes from a position of sergeant in the
patrol division and, therefore, may have no investigatory
experience or training. The SPD does not provide pre-service or
in-service investigative training for PSO officers.
We recommend that SPD policy be revised to reflect the
recent reorganization with the PSO now reporting directly to the
Chief. We also recommend that the PSO be adequately staffed and
equipped to function effectively. During our October 2002 tour,
we were informed that the command staff and PBA are negotiating
the removal of the PSO position from the strict seniority
requirement of the current Collective Bargaining Agreement. In
this context, we recommend that the SPD develop eligibility
criteria for the PSO position, which includes an evaluation of
the applicant’s performance, including complaint and disciplinary
histories, if any. Such criteria should ensure that only
officers with the highest ethical standards serve as
investigators. The SPD should take measures to recruit and train
PSO officers, including providing additional incentives to
encourage officers to apply to and remain with the PSO. Possible
incentives include greater monetary compensation or priority for

- 14 
receiving training. All PSO officers should receive pre-service
and in-service investigatory training.

SPD Investigations

The SPD classifies investigations of officer conduct as
external and special. External investigations are initiated by
citizen complaints. Special investigations, also referred to as
internal investigations, are administratively generated either by
a supervisor within the SPD or in response to the filing of a
civil suit or notice of a claim.
The PSO currently conducts all investigations of SPD officer
conduct except the external investigations that are assigned to
the Bureau of the subject officer. (External investigations are
discussed further in the following section, IV. External
Complaints.) If the PSO is assigned a special investigation
after having initiated an external complaint investigation of the
incident, PSO will re-classify the external complaint
investigation as a special investigation. Although the SPD
regularly initiates a special investigation each time a civil
suit or notice of claim is filed, we were informed that between
1990 and 2000, the SPD initiated fewer than five special
investigations involving use of force allegations that were not
predicated on a notice of claim or civil suit. Both external and
special investigations may include incidents that involve
allegations of criminality. The SPD has no written polices or
procedures for investigations of possible criminality by SPD
employees, notification of the District Attorney’s Office (“DA’s
Office”), or compelling statements from officers pursuant to
Garrity v. New Jersey, 385 U.S. 493 (1967).
We recommend that the SPD establish specific protocols for
all investigations, including identification of the SPD or City
entity responsible for conducting each type of investigation.
The SPD should also develop guidelines identifying the
circumstances in which the DA’s Office should receive immediate
notification of an incident in order to conduct an independent
investigation. The SPD should create written guidelines
regarding when it is appropriate: to defer an external
investigation for a special investigation; to compel statements
in a manner that ensures the integrity of the complaint
investigation and that any potential criminal investigation
complies with Garrity; and to notify or refer an open
investigation to the DA’s Office. The SPD also should develop

- 15 
protocols for investigations and investigation reports, which
provide more guidance than the limited requirements applicable to
external investigations discussed in section IV.B. below.

External Complaints

A fair and impartial process for receiving and investigating
external complaints is a crucial oversight mechanism and an
important deterrent for misconduct. As set forth below, however,
aspects of the SPD’s external complaint process have the
potential to discourage the filing of complaints and to impair
their effective tracking and resolution.

Intake and tracking of external complaints

SPD policy permits an individual to file a complaint against
an SPD employee4 at the SPD, City Hall, Human Rights Commission
or with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored
People. SPD policy indicates that complaints will be taken over
the telephone; however, the policy does not address how the
telephone procedure affects the requirement that the complainant
sign the complaint forms. Although SPD policy does not provide
for anonymous complaints, it states that a complainant's name
will be held in confidence, if requested. We suggest this policy
be better publicized. Indeed, in the numerous interviews we
conducted, we did not find one community organization or
community member who was aware that SPD policy allowed for
confidential citizen complaints. We also suggest that the SPD
develop guidelines for accepting anonymous and confidential
complaints. The guidelines should resolve the apparent conflict
between accepting such complaints and the SPD policy requiring
the complainant to sign the complaint. Our review of SPD
Internal Affairs files indicates that the signature requirement

Complainants report that they often are unable to
identify the officer by name because SPD officers do not wear
name tags. Pursuant to SPD policy, name tags are considered an
adornment and are optional. Successful police work requires
cooperation from the community and the SPD has acknowledged a
poor relationship with the community. Name tags allow community
members to refer to an officer by name. Name tags also convey a
willingness to be held accountable. We are encouraged by the
fact that the command staff and PBA have agreed in principle to
the wearing of name tags by all uniform officers and recommend
that this agreement be incorporated into a formal policy.

- 16 
is strictly enforced as more than one complaint was returned
because the complaint submitted was a photocopy that did not
contain an original signature.
The SPD does not explicitly prohibit SPD officers from
refusing to accept citizen complaints or from discouraging
members of the public from filing complaints. We were informed
that the PSO receives approximately 5 to 10 complaints each year
from citizens reporting that a SPD supervisor refused to accept
their complaints. A departmental order requiring supervisors to
record all complaints was drafted in 2001; however, the SPD
command did not issue the order.
SPD policy requires that all complaints be documented.
However, SPD supervisors told us that they will not document a
complaint if it is resolved informally or if the complainant does
not insist that the complaint be reduced to writing. SPD policy
encourages supervisors to resolve informally “minor complaints,”
yet there are no guidelines to determine whether a complaint is
“minor.” The absence of clear guidance or appropriate procedures
for these practices may result in under-reporting and possible
mishandling of complaints. For example, one sergeant both
explained that citizen complaints were a means by which he
monitored officer misconduct and stated that he would not record
a complaint unless the citizen insisted. This sergeant
apparently did not recognize that his failure to record a
complaint diminishes the ability of every other supervisor to
track potential officer misconduct and to recognize training
Members of the public who file a complaint at the SPD are
required to speak to a supervisor and are not permitted to
complete the personnel complaint packet themselves. All
complaints must be recorded on the pre-printed forms in the SPD
personnel complaint packet. The packet consists of four forms:
a personnel complaint form, an advisement form, a medical
authorization form and an affidavit. The personnel complaint,
medical complaint and each page of the affidavit require the
complainant to affirm the truth of the statements under the
penalty of perjury, a Class A misdemeanor in the State of New
York. In contrast, officers who are required to respond to
complaints in writing are not required to swear to the truth of
their statements. We suggest that officers responding to
complaints be required as well to affirm the truth of their
statements. Furthermore, the SPD complaint packet should require

- 17 no more than one affirmation by the complainant.
The complaint advisement form warns the complainant that the
information provided may be released to the public. It does not
state that anonymous complaints will be accepted and investigated
to the extent feasible and that in such circumstances
confidentiality will be afforded. The advisement form also
requires, that by signing the form, the complainant to “agree” to
appear and testify at any future proceeding. A complainant who
is in fear of an officer(s) may not be willing to make such a
commitment at the time the complaint is filed, and therefore, the
advisement form may serve to discourage a complainant from filing
a meritorious complaint.
Similarly, the medical authorization form asks the
complainant to authorize release to the SPD “any and all
information which may be requested regarding (the complainant's)
past or present physical condition and treatment rendered.” Any
medical authorization form should limit the authorized release of
information to the injury that is the subject of the complaint,
in order to avoid discouraging potential complainants who also
want to protect their privacy.
We recommend that SPD accept all phoned, faxed, and
anonymous or confidential complaints. We recommend that every
officer in the department be required to accept a written
complaint presented by a citizen and that, upon receipt, the
officer be required to submit the written complaint to a
supervisor. We further recommend that SPD policy require that
every officer provide complete and accurate information regarding
the complaint process, including written materials, to members of
the public who request information about filing a complaint.
Officers should be explicitly prohibited from refusing to accept
citizen complaints and from discouraging members of the public
from filing the complaints. The SPD should provide training on
handling citizen complaints and interpersonal skills to SPD
personnel with primary responsibility for receiving complaints.
We recommend that the SPD redesign its complaint package to
ensure that it does not discourage the filing of complaints.
The SPD should not require the complainant to commit to
testifying against the officer or to releasing personal medical
information at the time the complaint is filed. Any medical
release should be narrowly tailored to information regarding the
injury alleged in the complaint.

- 18 
We further recommend that the SPD require officers receiving
complaints to document them in writing and to document any
informal resolution. The SPD should clarify which complaints are
permitted to be resolved informally and narrowly define “minor
complaints” (e.g., complaints asserting only that the seizure of
an individual was improper solely because the complainant is not
guilty of a traffic or parking violation). We recommend that the
SPD ensure all complaints, resolved and unresolved, are recorded
on complaint forms and require their prompt referral for
investigation and entry into the Early Warning System (“EWS”)
tracking system.

Investigation of external complaints
1. Assignment

As previously noted, during our October 2002 tour, we were
informed that the PSO now is reporting directly to the Chief.
This re-organization can be used to facilitate the assignment of
investigations. Under the current SPD policy, the Investigative
Services Bureau Commander (“ISB”) assigns investigations to the
Bureau of the subject officer unless the Chief requests that the
investigation be conducted by the PSO. However, current policy
fails to include a procedure for the Chief to review the
complaints prior to their assignment by ISB Commander. Even were
the Chief to review all complaints prior to their assignment by
ISB, SPD policy authorizes the Chief to assign investigations
that involve a matter “of a serious nature where misconduct has
been alleged” but fails to define “serious nature” or
Once an investigation is assigned to the PSO or a Bureau,
the only criteria for assigning an investigator is that he/she is
a “ranking officer.” SPD policy does not prohibit from
conducting investigations a supervisor who was present at the
scene or who allegedly authorized the officer’s actions.
Similarly, the SPD does not require that the investigator be
trained in investigatory techniques. Officers in the Field
Services Bureau (“FSB”) which reportedly receives 99% of the
external complaints, reported that they do not receive routine
in-service training in investigatory techniques which includes

- 19 
instruction on the questioning of witnesses.5
We recommend that the SPD develop a written policy,
specifically identifying the kinds of complaints to be
investigated by the Bureau (such as traffic infraction and
rudeness) and the kinds of complaints to be investigated by the
PSO (such as use of force and racial discrimination) as well as
the procedure for making the determination. If the Chief is to
determine when the PSO investigates a complaint, then the SPD
should develop a formal process for the Chief to review
complaints before they are assigned. Furthermore, if the
decision to assign the complaint is based on whether it alleges
“misconduct” and is a complaint of a “serious nature,” then these
terms also should be defined.
The SPD should establish criteria for selecting
investigators that require consideration of their complaint and
discipline history and ensure those selected have proper
training. An officer should not be selected if he/she was
involved in or present during the incident, or has a relationship
with the officer which might undermine the integrity of the
investigation or creates an appearance of bias.

Investigative Protocols

SPD policy states that investigations are to be conducted
pursuant to current department directives. The directives
contained in the policy are limited to general requirements such
as documenting contacts, completing the investigation within 30
days, and abiding by union contracts when questioning SPD
employees. The directives do not require the investigator to
perform specific tasks such as recording interviews,
photographing injuries or interviewing all subject and witnessing
The PSO does not document each interview that it does
conduct either manually or mechanically. The occurrence of some
interviews are evident only by their reference in other
documents. This practice may lead to lost information and
The SPD training sergeant confirmed that training in
investigative techniques was not offered by the SPD. Although a
class is offered at the regional academy two or three times a
year, space is limited, and therefore, generally reserved for
officers in the Investigative Services Bureau (“ISB”).

- 20 
disputes over the content of interviews. We were informed that
statements were not recorded mechanically because they would be
discoverable and it would be too difficult to redact names when
the tapes were turned over to the Police Objective Review
Committee (“PORC”), the community organization responsible for
reviewing external investigations. We were also informed that
PSO investigators routinely provide all officers with the
allegations and conduct an informal undocumented interview early
in an investigation. At a later date, the PSO requires that the
officers submit a written statement. Such a written submission
is often an inadequate investigative practice because it does not
permit for immediate follow-up questioning and may produce
"canned" responses. In addition, there is no written policy
governing when investigators should compel statements from
officers pursuant to Garrity v. New Jersey, 385 U.S. 493 (1967).
SPD policy states that the completed investigation will
include “original” and “related” documents (including the
investigator’s notes). The policy does not specify which
documents must be included, such as the Standard Incident Report
(“SIR”), the statements of the involved officer (including the
initial oral interview and the patrol officer’s written statement
to an investigator completed in the course of a felony arrest),
statements of the witnesses, or photographs of injuries.
SPD does not require that subject officer(s) comply with
specific investigative protocols. For example, there is no
requirement that an officer who discharges his/her firearm turn
that firearm into the SPD for testing or that an officer submit
to a chemical test if there is a reason to believe that the
officer acted while impaired.
SPD allows complaints to be withdrawn “for reasons that are
acceptable to the investigating officer.” An officer's personal
threshold for acceptable and not acceptable reasons should not be
the basis upon which an investigation is closed. The SPD has no
policy mandating the continued investigation of complaints filed
by complainants who later wish to withdraw their complaints, who
are subsequently unwilling to cooperate, whom the investigator is
unable to locate, or who wish to remain anonymous, even if the
investigation to that point has produced information that merits
further inquiry.
The SPD should develop protocols for conducting SPD

- 21 
investigations. The protocols should include, but not be limited
to, the following investigative policies and practices: require
investigators to conduct in-person, mechanically recorded
interviews with all complainants, officers who are the subject of
a complaint, and witnesses and establish guidelines regarding
when these recorded interviews are transcribed; establish
guidelines regarding when to compel statements pursuant to
Garrity that ensure consistency and the integrity of potential
criminal investigations; and require photographs of all injured
parties. We also recommend that the SPD specify the documents
that investigators must collect and preserve in the investigative
file, including all relevant police reports.
The SPD should develop a protocol specifying the
responsibilities of the officer(s) who are the subject(s) of an
investigation. The protocol should require the subject
officer(s) to provide non-testimonial evidence, if warranted,
such as submitting to a chemical test, releasing relevant medical
information or turning in a firearm for a ballistics analysis. A
subject officer should also be required to produce all
statements, reports and notes completed in his/her course of
duties that are related to the allegations.
Any complaint submitted should be investigated to the extent
reasonably possible to determine whether or not the allegations
can be resolved, including anonymous complaints, withdrawn
complainants, and complaints filed by complainants who are
unwilling to cooperate with the SPD or the SPD is unable to

Investigative Findings

The SPD requires investigators to complete an investigatory
report. In addition to a few general requirements, the SPD
policy addressing investigative reports requires that for each
allegation the investigator recommend one of six findings:
sustained, acquitted, unfounded, withdrawn, exonerated and policy
failure. Sustained is the finding when “conduct alleged
apparently occurred and amounts to misconduct.” “Misconduct” is
not defined and there is no category of finding for behavior that
occurred and is inappropriate but possibly something less than
“misconduct.” Acquitted is the finding when “insufficient
evidence exists to clearly prove or disprove the allegation.”
The policy fails to identify the appropriate standard of proof
for the investigation. Unfounded is the finding when “there is

- 22 
no basis for a complaint” and exonerated is when a “personnel’s
conduct was lawful, justified and proper.”
Thorough, impartial and balanced investigations of citizen
complaints are an essential component of constructive
police-citizen relations. Even the appearance that the
investigations are biased will affect those relations negatively.
For example, the definition of sustained is modified with the
adverb “apparently” and there is no similar modification in the
definition of exonerated.
The SPD should develop protocols identifying the
requirements for investigation reports. Such protocol should
require: a summary of the investigation and an assessment of the
police action that is the subject of the complaint as well as any
ancillary issues discovered in the course of the investigation
including whether: 1) the police action was in compliance with
policy, training and legal standards; 2) the incident involved
additional misconduct; 3) the use of different tactics, should
have been employed; 4) the incident indicates a need for
additional training, counseling or other non-disciplinary
corrective measures; and 5) the incident suggests that SPD should
revise its policies, training, tactics, or equipment.
Furthermore, the SPD policy should state that the preponderance
of the evidence is the appropriate standard of proof for an
administrative investigation.

Disposition of external complaints

After an external complaint is investigated, the matter is
referred to the Chief, who reviews the recommendation of the
investigator, makes the final determination, and forwards the
investigation to the PSO for presentation to the Police Objective
Review Committee (“PORC”).6 PORC was established pursuant to the
City Charter and is composed of representatives from various
In January 2003, the Mayor and the City Council enacted
new legislation creating the Civilian Police Review Board
(“CPRB”). Once the members are selected, the CPRB will replace
PORC as the entity responsible for reviewing PSO investigations
of external complaints. The CPRB has an additional mandate to
improve the relationship between the community and the police.
Like PORC, the CPRB will be presented with redacted
investigations by the PSO and will not be empowered to
investigate incidents independently.

- 23 
community organizations and designated city positions. Prior to
presenting the investigation to PORC, the PSO redacts identifying
information including all names and locations. PORC determines
whether the PSO investigation was reasonable and adequate. On
occasion PORC has requested that the PSO provide additional
information. PORC does not have the authority to investigate a
complaint or to recommend or review the imposition of corrective
or disciplinary action. Once PORC approves the investigation,
the complainant is notified that PORC accepted the SPD
investigation. Complainants are not informed of the
recommendation, the reasons for the recommendation, or whether
any disciplinary or other corrective action was taken.
We recommend that the SPD notify a complainant of the
disposition of his/her complaint including the finding and an
explanation of the finding. The SPD should provide an
opportunity for complainants to register their opinion if they
are dissatisfied with the resolution of their complaint.


The formal SPD disciplinary process is governed by the
collective bargaining agreement (“CBA”) between the PBA and the
City, in conjunction with §75 of New York Civil Service Law. The
formal process begins with the service of charges on an officer,
after an allegation is sustained and the charges have been
approved by the Mayor. The SPD officer is then entitled to a
hearing by the Chief and/or Mayor. SPD Duties and Rules of
Conduct allow for a Chief’s hearing in cases that would not
result in termination or demotion and provide a de novo hearing
before the Mayor if an officer is dissatisfied with the result of
the Chief’s hearing.7 NY Civil Service Law does not require a de
novo hearing and allows for the Chief to conduct all disciplinary
hearings if so designated for that purpose in writing by the
The SPD, however, has adopted an informal disciplinary

SPD Duties and Rules of Conduct IO 97-03 §12.5.

“The hearing upon such charge will be held by the
officer or body having the power to remove the person against
whom all such charges are preferred, or by a deputy or other
person designated by such officer or body in writing for that
purpose.” NY Civil Service Law §75.2.

- 24 
process that involves negotiations between the officer, the PBA
and SPD command staff to determine both the charge and the
discipline. These negotiations often take place while an
investigation is on-going. Negotiations may be appropriate after
an investigation is complete, but are generally inappropriate
before then. In addition, several officers expressed concern
that the process invited arbitrary and inconsistent punishment
based upon an officer’s relationship with the Chief or the Mayor.
A failure to enforce uniform and fair discipline appears to
undermine respect for the disciplinary system and may be
perceived as signaling a lack of commitment by SPD command staff
to uphold standards of conduct and professionalism.9
Pursuant to the CBA, all SPD disciplinary decisions are
subject to arbitration.10 The arbitrator is empowered to modify
any finding or discipline determined to be “erroneous” or “unduly
harsh or severe under all the circumstances.” We were informed
that when the parties do not agree on discipline during informal
negotiations, they proceed to the contract mandated grievance and
arbitration proceedings solely on the question of discipline.
The parties effectively by-pass the Chief and/or Mayor’s hearing
by stipulating to the underlying facts. We were informed that
the SPD has conducted a single disciplinary hearing in the past
10 years. Pursuant to that SPD proceeding, the officer was
dismissed. Subsequently, he was reinstated by an arbitrator.

Until recently, the informal disciplinary process also
included negotiations to identify a date or event for the removal
of the disciplinary record from the officer’s personnel file.
During our October 2002 tour, we were informed that officers are
no longer permitted to negotiate the removal of disciplinary
records. We are encouraged by this change in policy, as purging
these records hinders the ability of the SPD to access an
officer’s disciplinary history.

The CBA appears to have conflicting provisions
regarding the arbitrator’s review. When reviewing a disciplinary
hearing, the CBA limits the arbitrator to a review of the hearing
record. However, when reviewing a grievance, the CBA allows the
arbitrator’s to hear additional evidence presented by either
party and to seek evidence or material from any City Official or
Agency. If a SPD employee requests arbitration on the issue of
termination of employment, seemingly a matter of discipline, the
matter proceeds as if it were a grievance and the arbitrator is
permitted to hear and seek evidence.

- 25 We recommend that the SPD work with the PBA to develop a
consistent and fair system to determine and track disciplinary
action. Such a system could identify ranges of appropriate
disciplinary action depending on a variety of factors, such as
the nature of the infraction and prior disciplinary history. The
system should track all discipline received by an officer as well
as the dates the disciplinary action was enforced. A uniform and
fair system to determine and track discipline should increase
officer confidence in the SPD disciplinary process and allow the
SPD to assess disciplinary records. All SPD personnel should be
trained regarding the disciplinary ranges associated with the
various infractions.

Supervisory oversight

Risk assessment and management

We understand that the SPD does not have a comprehensive
risk management plan. Although the SPD recently began weekly
management meetings between the Public Safety Commissioner,
Police Chief and Assistant Chiefs, the SPD does not identify,
collect and share risk management information on a regular basis.
The SPD does not require supervisors to perform managerial
duties that would enable the identification of at-risk officers
or track other risk management information. As previously
indicated, SPD policy does not require supervisors regularly to
evaluate uses of force. The SPD does not require supervisors to
inspect their units. Supervisors are not required to review SIRs
or to evaluate the legality of an officer’s arrest or citizen
interaction. Officers informed us that there is no substantive
review of SIRS, but rather they are presented to a Desk Officer
and reviewed solely for legibility and completeness. Officers
also informed us that there is no supervisory review of search
warrant applications, which are presented directly to a court
without any intermediate review. As previously stated, we
understand that no one in the SPD monitors the use of pepper
spray or the number of cans used by individual officers or units.
Existing risk management information is not centralized.
SIRs are presented to the Desk Officer. Resisting Arrest Packets
are turned over to the Field Services Bureau Commander. Citizen
complaints that are recorded are logged by the PSO. The
Schenectady County Sheriff’s Department identifies prisoners
allegedly injured by SPD officers and sends that information to

- 26 
the Chief. There is no process for communicating with the
District Attorney’s Office regarding concerns it has identified
and officers the court has found not to be credible or to have
committed an unconstitutional act requiring the suppression of
evidence. In interviews we learned that the SPD apparently was
unaware that the DA’s Office had refused to bring felony charges
based on any drug arrest conducted by one of the officers
convicted in the federal criminal trial, for at least one year
prior to the officer’s 2002 conviction. As noted above, there
have been fewer than five use of force investigations between
1990 and 2000 that were not predicated on a civil suit, notice of
claim or citizen complaint. Yet in February 2002 alone, 10 civil
suits were pending that alleged excessive use of force by the SPD
between 1995 and 2000.
In addition, the SPD does not conduct regular audits. One
command level officer informed us that the SPD has never
conducted an audit of use of force, search and seizure, probable
cause or PSO Investigations.
We recommend that the SPD create, implement, and regularly
update a comprehensive risk management plan. This plan should
provide for explicit supervisory responsibilities including: the
review and evaluation of officer’s arrests, citizen interactions
and uses of force; and regular, periodic inspections of all SPD
units. The SPD should develop protocols to aid in ensuring that
all uses of force are reported and investigated, such as
requiring the Desk Officers to notify a supervisor if a SIR
narrative, an arrestee’s complaint, or the condition of the
arrestee indicate force may have been used. The SPD should track
uses of force by officer, platoon and bureau. The plan also
should include measures to correct the underlying reasons that
at-risk behavior and potential misconduct is not identified or
investigated within the department before it is identified by the
We further recommend that the risk management plan include
an early warning system; regular, periodic audits of use of force
reporting, use of pepper spray, training, external complaint
intakes and investigations, criminal and other internal
investigations, and the disciplinary process; command-level riskassessment reviews of all high-risk incidents and civil suits;
and improved information sharing among supervisors regarding
training, risk assessment and management, officers or officer
actions identified as a concern by either the court or the DA’s

- 27 
Office, planning, and policy review. The SPD should provide risk
assessment and management training, including training regarding
the EWS, to all supervisory staff.

Early warning system11

The SPD does not have an adequate EWS, or other method by
which to identify patterns of potentially problematic behavior by
an officer, platoon, or bureau. The SPD does have a system
designated as an EWS, but it is under-inclusive as a tool for
detecting problematic trends in officer behavior because each of
the two components collect information from only a single source,
the two components are not interconnected and the system does not
ensure effective officer management or review.
The Schenectady EWS is divided into external and internal
components. The external EWS component triggers a review when an
officer receives three citizen complaints resolved as
“acquittals”12 within a 12-month period. This threshold is quite
high, considering that the SPD completed only 27 citizen
complaint investigations in 1999, 20 in 2000 and 21 in 2001. In
addition, the EWS system does not consider any other indicators
of officer behavior, including such important records as
complaints resolved in other ways (e.g., “sustained” or
“withdrawn”), uses of force, civil lawsuits or arrests.
Moreover, the only stated consequences of meeting the trigger of
the external EWS is that the Chief of Police “may” meet with the
officer to discuss the acquittals, and “may” counsel or direct
further training.

An EWS is a relational data system, usually
computerized, for maintaining, integrating, and retrieving
information necessary for effective supervision and management of
a police department and its personnel. A police department can
use EWS data regularly and affirmatively to promote best
professional police practices, accountability and proactive
management; to manage the risk of police misconduct and potential
liability; to evaluate and audit the performance of officers and
units; and to identify, manage, and control at-risk officers,
conduct, and situations.

As noted above, SPD policy defines “acquittal” as
insufficient evidence exists to clearly prove or disprove the

- 28 The internal EWS component triggers a review when an officer
receives five EWS cards within a twelve month period. According
to SPD policy, EWS cards are issued for “minor discrepancies,
non-conformance, or non-compliance with Departmental rules,
regulations, policies and procedures....prior to entering a
formal disciplinary process.” The policy fails to define “minor
discrepancies” or limit the types of “non-conformance” or “noncompliance” that are appropriate for redress by the EWS policy,
thereby potentially allowing any violation of SPD policy,
including allegations of officer misconduct, to be resolved with
an EWS card. Furthermore, the policy prohibits the submission or
review of Internal EWS records when considering an employee for
promotion. Although it may be appropriate to exclude some EWS
records from promotional considerations, the exclusion should not
occur until the SPD appropriately defines “minor discrepancies”
and adequately investigates all allegations of officer
When a violation is recorded, an EWS card is issued to the
employee and copies are provided to the Unit and Bureau
Commander. The cards are expunged on a rolling 12-month basis.
The stated consequence for receiving a fifth card is a meeting
with the Chief, or his designee, to discuss whether corrective
action is warranted.
The internal EWS policy allows employees to orally grieve
the issuance of an EWS card through the chain of command up to
the Chief and states that “[a]ny cards deemed unjustified shall
be purged immediately.” The policy fails to provide any standard
for determining when an allegation is unjustified. Furthermore,
since the grievance procedure is informal and unwritten, there is
no method to identify supervisors who issue or purge EWS cards
We recommend that the SPD develop an EWS system that
encompasses a range of clearly defined information and ensures
that corrective action is based on appropriate evaluation and not
reserved for a mere accumulation of violations. We recommend
that the EWS contain information on all investigations, all
complaints, including non-sustained complaints and complaints
prior to final disposition, uses of force, criminal arrests and
charges, civil lawsuits, SIRs, training history, supervisory
reviews, discipline, and other corrective actions.
We recommend that the SPD develop additional flags for the

- 29 
EWS based on an accumulation of various types of conduct, not
just an accumulation of internal or external complaints, and that
all offices that use the EWS generate regular reports based on
these flags. We recommend that the SPD require supervisors to
review the EWS data of every officer they supervise on a regular
basis and establish guidelines regarding the specific events that
require an additional supervisory review. The SPD should
formalize any grievance procedure for information to be compiled
in the EWS and require the process be documented. The SPD should
develop and enforce a policy which indicates when corrective
action is warranted.


Field Training

Field training for new officers is an integral component of
a training program, which helps to minimize the risk of officers
engaging in problematic behaviors, including the use of excessive
force. SPD recruits are trained at a regional police academy
along with recruits from 73 neighboring police departments.
Because of the diversity of the departments and their policies,
the academy teaches basic courses and requires the individual
police departments to teach their unique policies and procedures.
For example, the use of force course taught at the academy is
based on the New York State justification statute. As a result,
the field training program is the first opportunity new recruits
have to learn SPD policies and procedures.
In order to increase the number of officers available for
patrol, the SPD reduced the Field Training Program from 14 weeks
to 11 weeks in March 1999. Several Field Training Officers
(“FTOs”) indicated they were unable to complete the FTO course
curriculum in the eleven week period and therefore, turned in
incomplete evaluations of their recruits. Despite this fact,
FTOs informed us that recruits who did not complete the FTO
course curriculum were graduated from the training program and
placed on patrol.
With regard to the selection of FTOs, the SPD has no
eligibility criteria for FTOs pertaining to the applicants’
complaint and disciplinary histories, performance levels or

- 30 
special skills.13 Such eligibility requirements help to ensure
that qualified officers, who have not engaged in misconduct,
train new officers. There also is no formal evaluation process
for FTOs.
We recommend that the SPD take measures to ensure that all
new recruits are trained in SPD policies and procedures before
they are placed on patrol. At a minimum, the SPD should ensure
that each recruit has completed the requirements of the FTO
program before placing that recruit on patrol. For many recruits
the eleven week program will be sufficient; however, those
recruits who are unable to complete the program in eleven weeks
should be held over until they have completed the program.
The SPD should develop specific criteria for the selection
of FTOs from the ranks of qualified personnel. The FTO criteria
should reflect a candidate’s experience, disciplinary record, and
interpersonal skills consistent with the coach/mentor function of
an FTO.
We recommend that the SDP take measures to recruit and train
qualified FTOs, including providing additional incentives to
encourage officers to apply to become FTOs. We also recommend
that the SPD develop a mechanism for removing FTOs who fail to
perform adequately and whose actions while serving as FTOs would
have disqualified them from selection. The SPD should
standardize the procedure for evaluating FTOs and solicit
anonymous evaluations of FTOs by probationary officers.

In-service training

We were told that SPD officers repeatedly have requested
more in-service training than is currently provided. In 2000 and
2001, the SPD offered three days of department-wide, in-service
training. In-service training would benefit officers by
enhancing their knowledge and strengthening their technical and
analytical skills.
We recommend that the SPD provide additional blocks of
mandatory, annual, in-service training, including training on the
During our October tour, we were encouraged to learn
that the command staff and the PBA are negotiating the removal of
the FTO positions from the strict seniority requirement of the
current Collective Bargaining Agreement.

- 31 
use of force, search and seizure, legal developments, and police
integrity. Use of force training should train officers to use
only reasonable force and instruct them in de-escalation
techniques that can help them avoid using force or minimize the
amount of force used, rather than focusing solely on when an
officer is legally justified in using force. Moreover, we
recommend that this training focus on discussions and role-play
with officers about particular scenarios (preferably taken from
actual incidents involving SPD officers) with the goal of
educating the officers regarding the legal and tactical issues
raised by the scenarios. The SPD should document and ensure that
all sworn officers have successfully completed the training. We
also recommend that all investigators receive training which
includes investigatory techniques, interview skills and the SPD
investigatory policies.
We note that one potential resource for the SPD in
establishing and improving such training programs may be the
long-standing training and grant programs operated by other
components of the Department of Justice, such as the Office of
Justice Programs. While these programs are completely separate
and independent of the Civil Rights Division’s investigations, we
would be pleased to provide you with contact information for
exploring the availability of such programs.
We look forward to working with you and the SPD in the
coming months as our investigation proceeds.
/s/ Shanetta Y. Brown Cutlar

Shanetta Y. Brown Cutlar
Acting Chief
Special Litigation Section
cc:	 The Honorable Albert P. Jurczynski
Public Safety Commissioner Daniel Boyle
Chief Michael Geraci