"There is no need for an Inspector General in New York because crime is at an all-time low and the department is working well under its current leadership."
- New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg referring to Introduction 881 -- a New York City Council bill that would create a NYPD Inspector General office with the responsibility of providing independent oversight of the NYPD as well as assessing the impact of its practices on the rights of New Yorkers.
Currently the FBI, CIA and the Los Angeles Police Department have an Inspector General, so why can't the New York Police Department?
Over the past three months, we have heard incidents of the NYPD shooting and either injuring or killing unarmed New Yorkers. Most recently is the case of Noel Polanco, a national guardsmen who was fatally shot recently on the Grand Central Parkway by NYPD Detective Hassan Hamby. The detective claims Polanco reached down toward the car floor, leading him to fire his weapon, although a passenger in the car disputes Polanco ever took his hands off the steering wheel before the shooting occurred. Regardless, no gun was found and another unarmed New Yorker's life was taken by the NYPD. If this sounds familiar, it's because it occurs far too often. Back in February of 1999, 23-year-old Guinean immigrant Amadou Diallo was shot at 41 times by NYPD officers and killed for apparently aiming a "gun" that was actually just his wallet. Unfortunately Diallo was not the first, as many have suffered the same fate between his tragic death and that of Polanco's.
Mayor Bloomberg's statement suggests he is severely disconnected from the realities too many New Yorkers face. Take the case of Alvin, a 17-year-old Harlem resident who was stopped and frisked by two NYPD officers for "being a f*cking mutt."
As a Queer Latino Organizer, I know that the case of 17-year-old Alvin isn't an anomaly and is representative of a larger problem of discriminatory policing and inadequate police accountability that stems from a lack of oversight.
Many LGBTQ youth of color are constantly stopped and harassed by NYPD officers in the streets of the West Village in New York City, a neighborhood that has historically been a safe space for queer and trans youth. In 2011, 76.6 percent of people stopped in the West Village were African American and Latino, despite the fact that only eight percent of residents in that neighborhood's police precinct are African American or Latino. Many of those stopped are LGBTQ youth of color, and on many occasions they are called derogatory, homophobic and oppressive names. It is not unusual for police to kick them out of the neighborhood -- because they don't own property or live there -- using the threat of arrest.
The NYPD is watching us, but who's watching the NYPD? It's not enough to say the Commissioner is doing a great job and we don't need strong, independent oversight of the department. LGBTQ youth of color and many other communities say pass the Community Safety Act -- a package of landmark legislation in the City Council to bring real accountability to the NYPD, including oversight by an Inspector General. How many more extreme tragedies need to happen and how many New Yorkers' rights need to be violated before the City Council and the Mayor take action on this critical issue? How many lives will be altered; how many people alienated by a department supposed to serve and protect them?
Follow John Blasco on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@fiercenyc