This week, we took some big steps forward toward a better NYPD – one that keeps working hard every day to keep us safe in our communities, but that stops engaging in discriminatory and abusive policing. And one that has the basic, democratic oversight that all agencies need to identify and fix problems, so it can keep getting better.
On Wednesday, the City Council held hearings on the Community Safety Act, four bills (I’m a co-sponsor of each) that would improve NYPD accountability and end discriminatory profiling. Three of the bills would address the huge number of stop-and-frisks (and the illegal searches and abusive interactions which too frequently ensue) that have skyrocketed in recent years and overwhelmingly target young black and Latino men. The tactic has frayed the bonds of trust with communities needed for good policing, despite a lack of evidence that it has any meaningful impact on crime or guns.
The fourth bill, which I introduced (together with Councilmember Jumaane Williams), would create an NYPD Inspector General to provide independent oversight of the department for the first time. The need for an Inspector General goes far beyond stop-and-frisk. This is a basic, good-government reform. That’s why every other major New York City agency has an Inspector General.
And today, the New York Times editorialized in favor of an Inspector General for the NYPD, saying “the mechanism has worked well elsewhere and could only strengthen oversight in a police department that clearly needs it.” I hope you’ll read their editorial.
I also had the chance to speak on behalf of the NYPD Inspector General Act on NY1’s “Inside City Hall.” You can watch the “Inside City Hall” clip here.
With independent oversight, we will finally be able to take a close look at NYPD policies that impair civil liberties, put officers in danger, or lead to ineffective policing. Despite an extensive, Pulitzer Prize-winning investigation by the Associated Press which appears to have uncovered extensive unlawful spying on Muslim mosques and businesses by the NYPD Intelligence Division, there has been no independent investigation. Even though NYPD undercover officers are being put in dangerous situations without necessary support, there has been no independent investigation. And despite credible reports that multiple precincts in the City were found to be manipulating crime statistics (including misclassifying sexual assaults as misdemeanors), there has never been an independent investigation.
An Inspector General will not weaken the NYPD, but strengthen it. The FBI and CIA each have Inspectors General, and this oversight ensures that they are using the most efficient, effective policies. In fact, every major federal government agency has an Inspector General – and our proposal is modeled on them, as detailed in a new report from the Brennan Center for Justice.
Finally, if you’re still wondering why we need this, I really hope you’ll watch this chilling video published by The Nation magazine. The video juxtaposes Alvin, a teenager from Harlem who has experienced multiple stop-and-frisks and who recorded one of them, with interviews with NYPD officers about the pressure they are under to make unconstitutional stops. The video makes it clear that the NYPD’s out of control stop-and-frisk policy is bad for all New Yorkers, including our police officers themselves. I hope you get a chance to see it.
This week, thanks to the courage of New Yorkers like Alvin, and many others working together as Communities United for Police Reform, who have spoken out for more just and effective policing strategies – we took a few steps closer to real changes.