A New York City Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB) member argued that guidelines for investigating sexual misconduct against police officers needs to be clearer.
Frank Dwyer, a former NYPD officer and one of three police commissioner designees on the CCRB, suggested that the guidelines for sexual misconduct be more clearly worded, such as having the words “unwanted,” “aggressive,” or “rude” added to the definition of sexual misconduct.
He argued that if police officers could not flirt with the public while on duty, many would not have met their future wives. According to the New York Daily Times, Dwyer told the board, “To have a definition that says a sexual or romantic proposition, to me, is the equivalent of ‘Can I buy you dinner?’ I can assure you about one-third of the Police Department would not have a partner in life if they were not allowed to say those lines.”
Apparently, his comment was met with 14 seconds of silence before chairman Fred Davie referenced approvingly of a case where a sexual misconduct case against an officer was substantiated as appropriate, despite it not being “aggressive.” He added that the definition should be left open so that they can “adjudicate” on the matter.
Others in the group also voiced opposition to Dwyer’s suggestion to clarify the wording, instead wanting no officers to make any personal propositions to any member of the public.
Esmeralda Simmons said, “no civil servant — not just police officers — should be involved in any proposition, “be they sexual or romantic, to the people they’re supposed to serve. I think it’s unprofessional, and it’s out of place.”
Another board member spoke of a “power dynamic” that exists during an interaction between a police officer and a civilian, going on describe the notion of power as something that cannot be “gauged,” and adding that Dwyer’s suggestion is a misunderstanding of power.
Eventually, the rules were adopted without Dwyer’s proposed amendment.
In an email afterwards, Dwyer said that he agrees with the idea that when in a power-oriented relationship, one should not try to initiate a personal relationship, but that there are many cases where this power dynamic does not exist, such as an officer who regularly is at a particular hospital asks a doctor “who she has met 10 times, to have a cup of coffee.”
Dwyer also notes that the current definition of the board “allows another person to make a complaint about [the proposal to have coffee], even if the doctor is delighted to receive the invitation.”
In 2018, the watchdog group resolved to investigate sexual misconduct allegations against police officers but were initially delayed by a police union lawsuit and a court ruling that the CCRB needed to first seek public comment. After public hearings, the agency moved forward with their plan, and is currently formulating their definition for sexual misconduct.