Read the full piece in New York Focus
In October 2018, a 34-year-old woman in the Bronx accused New York City Police Department Lieutenant Eric Dym of using physical force against her and hitting her against an inanimate object. The Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB), the city agency tasked with digging into most complaints against NYPD officers, investigated the incident, and concluded that the central allegation was “unfounded.” Dym was let off the hook.
Until recently, that’s all the information that the public could obtain about the 2018 incident, leaving the impression that Lieutenant Dym definitively did nothing wrong. But a recently released CCRB document — one of a trove of newly publicly accessible CCRB investigative reports — paints a much murkier picture.
According to the report, Dym and another officer approached the woman and her friend in an unmarked car one evening and informed them that they were under arrest for allegedly kicking a taxi cab. The woman denied kicking the cab and began to argue, so Dym placed her in an armlock and shoved her against a police car. The woman claimed that Dym then twisted her arm and slammed her head against the car. While in a booking cell in a nearby police station, she complained of pain in her arm and head and blurred vision, eventually passing out and only regaining consciousness after EMTs arrived, according to the report. When the EMTs took her to the hospital, she reported feeling dizzy and recalled being hit in the head.
Dym denied hurting the woman, and other officers on the scene claimed that they “did not observe” him shoving her head against the police car, per the report. None of the officers’ body-worn cameras captured whether Dym slammed the woman’s head. And so, even with repeated and consistent testimony from the alleged victim — first in the hours after her arrest, then in a complaint to the CCRB, and then again in a sworn statement — it was a civilian’s word against cops’.
“Officers may use reasonable force to place a person in custody or prevent escape from custody,” the investigator wrote, citing the NYPD’s patrol guide. With the lack of video evidence, the CCRB voted to “exonerate” Dym — a notoriously abusive cop, with 28 known, closed complaints containing 56 different, substantiated allegations of wrongdoing — of the excessive force charge.
The investigative report, known as a “closing report,” is a comprehensive document that outlines all of the investigative measures and narrates all of the known facts involved in a CCRB investigation. Until recently, CCRB closing reports were kept confidential, but a change in police accountability laws spurred by the 2020 wave of Black Lives Matter protests, followed by legal fights from transparency advocates, have wrested them into the public domain, shedding new light on civilian complaints against NYPD officers.
Because the process for releasing the closing reports involves labor-intensive redacting, most likely won’t become public for years to come. Still, transparency advocates have lauded the decision to publicize them.
“The closing reports provide narratives — they provide actual detailed statements of what the police do when they have interactions with members of the public,” said John Teufel, a former CCRB investigator, lawyer, and civilian NYPD watchdog.
“It allows you to see with your own eyes,” he said. “When you’re able to actually read these reports, these tragic little short stories, you can really see how the police are out of control and ungovernable in the city of New York.”