David Chaplin II is currently an attorney with the city’s legal office. He was chosen for the CRB position out of approximately 50 applicants as his position as a labor attorney has provided him with the unique skills for dealing with allegations of officer misconduct.
The administrator of the Citizen Review Board is responsible for investigating allegations of police misconduct as well as community outreach and holding monthly board meetings. The board is made up of members appointed by the Common Council and Mayor Stephanie Miner.
“Civilian oversight is a necessity in a democracy where you have law enforcement licensed to serve and protect,” said Chaplin. “We’re human at the end of the day. Officers don’t set out to do harm, but when things go too far … I want the CRB to be one of the first thoughts that a person has.”
The shift in leadership comes at a tumultuous time for Syracuse law enforcement as an ongoing lawsuit and other disputes with the police department are being addressed. The board recently published a report revealing that a number of Syracuse police officers have been at the heart of a disproportionate number of civilian complaints of misconduct.
Since 2012, 11—out of the roughly 400—police officers have received nearly a quarter of all misconduct complaints. Ultimately, the report shows that approximately 2.5% of all Syracuse police officers were behind 22% of all complaints filed against the department over the past four years.
It is also unclear whether or not the 11 officers were disciplined for their actions, as Police Chief Frank Fowler stopped reporting to the board whether he imposed discipline in cases that took the board more than 60 days to review. This prompted a lawsuit by the CRB against Fowler.
The Citizen Review Board is intended to act as an unbiased entity keeping law enforcement officers in check. The extra set of eyes aids in curtailing instances of police misconduct and applies an outsider’s perspective to prevent wrongful convictions. An estimated 10,000 people in the U.S. are wrongfully convicted of serious crimes each year, which is exactly why the Syracuse Citizen Review Board needs a strong leader with sufficient knowledge and experience.