We live in the greatest city in the world, so it's not often that I find myself wishing that we had something that exists in Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington, Philadelphia, but not here in New York. All of these cities have independent oversight for their police departments -- which means there is someone whose job is to ensure that the police department's operations are effective, efficient, and protect our civil liberties.
With good oversight, people are more likely to follow the rules. Taxpayers can be more confident their money is well spent. Rights are more likely to be respected. Communities are more likely to build relationships of trust.
Without meaningful, independent oversight, problems grow and fester. Rules are broken. Pressure from the top outweighs what's right. Money is wasted. People take shortcuts with the truth. Our civil liberties are less likely to be protected. Agency morale suffers. The bonds of trust between the police and communities around the city are frayed. Policing becomes less effective. We need to stop this trend.
So today, I introduced legislation, along with Councilmember Jumaane Williams and 22 of our colleagues, to create an Inspector General for the NYPD. You can read about the new bill in the New York Times.
Inspectors general are a standard, good government feature in most government agencies. We have inspectors general covering every other major New York City agency, and every Federal agency - including the FBI and the CIA. Inspectors general identify problems where they exist and suggest corrective action. And when a department is following the rules, an IG's investigation can provide strong validation.
Please show your support for independent oversight of the NYPD by signing our petition.
When there are controversies about NYPD policies, the Inspector General would be invaluable in helping our city find a resolution. In 2005, a commission tried to evaluate accusations that crime complaints were being downgraded to keep crime statistics low. But Commissioner Kelly refused to provide documents to investigators -- and the commission did not have the power to subpoena the documents -- so the investigation was effectively ended. If New York had an inspector general, then the truth would come out and we would be able to act on the facts.
As a City Council Member, I faced similar pushback from the commissioner when I tried to establish whether the NYPD's surveillance operations targeting New York's Muslim communities were truly following criminal leads. An inspector general would be able to look at our police department's intelligence operations, maintaining confidentiality but also ensuring that the NYPD follows real leads and does not surveil one of our neighbors simply because of their race or religion.
One important controversy that an inspector general could help resolve is the ever growing "stop-and-frisk" program (check out a great new video here about the impacts of stop-and-frisk on our city's youth). While we are asked to believe that the NYPD was following "reasonable suspicions" when it stopped over 600,000 New Yorkers last year, the numbers don't add up. Only one in 10 people stopped were found to have done anything wrong, and blacks and Latinos were stopped far more often than other New Yorkers. Even in a neighborhood like Park Slope, where people of color are 25 percent of the population, 79 percent of the stops target people of color. A federal judge found recently that the program showed a "troubling apathy to New Yorkers' most fundamental rights."
An NYPD Inspector General could help identify and correct these problems and others, restore bonds of trust, improve morale, and bolster public safety.
This Sunday, on Father's Day, I will be marching with tens of thousands of other New Yorkers to call for reform of stop-and-frisk. We cannot accept a New York where people are subject to civil liberties violations based on the color of their skin. I hope you can join me at the march:
June 17, 2012, 3 PM
Assemble on West 110th St. between Central Park West/8th Ave. and Fifth Ave.
I hope I can count on your support for an NYPD Inspector General.
Follow Brad Lander on Twitter: www.twitter.com/bradlander