NEW YORK, NY — There are cracks in the NYPD’s blue wall of silence.
Police brass have done an about face in regards to releasing details of officers’ disciplinary cases.
The department will now post summaries of allegations and how cops were penalized — without mentioning the members by name.
This comes as a the commander of the Brooklyn South Major Case Squad began his third week of desk duty — for allegedly stealing time.
Sgt. Scott Kienle was forced to turn in his guns and shield and was quietly transferred to the Manhattan Viper unit where he monitors security cameras.
“He works in Manhattan Housing and is on modified assignment regarding an active IAB investigation,” a police spokesman said.
The spokesman declined to detail the reason for the transfer or the underlying investigation.
But sources said it involved receiving payment from the city for hours he did not actually work over a period of years.
A woman who answered the door at his Staten Island home said he was not there, and declined comment.
“If you’re going to write something, write something good because he’s a good guy,” she added.
Kienle joined the NYPD in 2000, and was promoted to sergeant in 2006.
He has been a squad commander since at least 2014. Last year he made $121,875, plus $48,425 in overtime, records show.
The Daily News highlighted the virtual secrecy of the NYPD disciplinary process in a series of articles earlier this month.
Two years ago the department reversed a 40-year practice of making summaries of its misconduct probes available to the media.
The department said at the time that it had been unwittingly violating Section 50-a of the 1976 state civil rights law, which it said bars the release of such records unless a judge says so.
“We have spent some time looking at each of those cases and have decided to look at ways in which we can provide more detailed information within the boundaries of what 50-a requires,” First Deputy Commissioner Benjamin Tucker said. “You’ll have a better sense of what the disciplinary process looks like as well.”
Police Commissioner James O’Neill, meanwhile, defended the way the NYPD disciplines its officers.
“Each and every discipline case comes up before me,” O’Neill said. “ We make sure that whatever discipline is meted out is done fairly and it’s done consistently and its done regardless of rank.”
But critics have said the city’s interpretation of 50-a is overly broad — and flies in the face of the NYPD transparency pledge.
Tuesday’s move drew criticism from both civil rights activists and police unions.
“This is just another example of the City pretending 50a prohibits them from disclosing information about police misconduct in an attempt to counter bad headlines,” said Cynthia Conti-Cook, Staff Attorney with the Special Litigation Unit at The Legal Aid Society.
“The law does not prohibit the department from making anything, including names of officers who have committed misconduct, public. We should know which officers commit acts of misconduct and betray public trust.”
Christopher Dunn, Associate Legal Director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, called the move “almost meaningless.”
“Without much more detail about the officer’s misconduct and without officer names, it will be impossible to know if discipline is appropriate and to identify officers who are serial offenders,” he said.
The biggest police union, the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, also blasted the NYPD’s plan, but for different reasons.
It said it remains “firmly opposed” to the release of any disciplinary information.
Union President Pat Lynch, in a March 22 letter to Police Commissioner James O’Neill, demanded that the NYPD “comply with the law and immediately cease all plans to release” disciplinary information.
Lynch also said that so-called “de-identified” case summaries are not necessarily anonymous, with court documents, for instance, providing the information that could lead to the identification of an officer.
Mike Palladino, head of the Detectives’ Endowment Association, agreed that the NYPD’s announcement is “a breach of our protections provided under 50-a.”