NYPD Launches Civilian Panel To Review Potential Hate Crimes

With the ongoing rise in hate crimes reported against Asian Americans, the NYPD is launching a new civilian panel to review how the NYPD classifies and investigates potential bias incidents. The five-member panel, made up of Asian, Jewish, and other community leaders, will vet the department’s decisions on how criminal investigations have been assigned internally, to make sure the NYPD’s Hate Crime Task Force takes the lead on all cases that may touch on bigotry.

“This panel will certainly add a deeper insight into these crimes. They may help us see things we may not have seen, and ultimately ensure justice for victims which is what we all want,” said recently sworn-in NYPD Chief of Department Rodney Harrison at a press conference. “Cops and communities working together. This is our credo.”

The independent board will also send formal recommendations to District Attorneys about cases that it thinks merit the legal classification of a hate crime. The team is supposed to meet every two weeks, and may be expanded in the months to come.

“We will be the voices of the victims, who are often ignored or at best tolerated. But today there will be change,” said Devorah Halberstam, Executive Director of the Jewish Children’s Museum and the chair of the civilian board. “Everybody deserves to live free in this country and in this city, and should not have to look over their shoulders as they walk down the street or sit on a park bench.”

Chief Harrison also confirmed that the panel will be able to review the NYPD’s initial classification decisions about whether street attacks are classified as “anti-COVID” or “anti-Asian” or both. Critics have accused the NYPD of failing to capture the full extent of anti-Asian attacks in the five boroughs because of internal classification decisions, as Gothamist/WNYC reported last week. “Having an extra pair of eyes, it can only help,” Harrison said.

Deputy Inspector Jessica Corey, the Hate Crime Task Force’s commanding officer, added that the department has moved to address confusion and fears about misclassification by combining some anti-COVID incidents into one larger anti-Asian tally. “They were always counted, always part of our count, always counted as Asian related,” Corey insisted. “But we’ve now combined them so that it’s very clear what the numbers are.”

The NYPD confirmed that as of April 18th, there have been 66 reported incidents of potential anti-Asian bias this year, up from just 12 during the same period last year. In 2021, the department made 31 arrests following such incidents, an increase from the 12 it made in 2020.