Deputy commissioner calls proposed inspector general for NYPD ‘wasteful’
Demands are growing louder for more oversight of the NYPD, but a department official blasted the idea that the city police force needs any extra sets of eyes.
“It’s wasteful and duplicative,” NYPD Deputy Commissioner Paul Browne told Metro exclusively. “No police department in America has more oversight than the NYPD.”
A bill that would establish an inspector general who would review and judge the NYPD’s practices has garnered hefty support from city officials, including Speaker Christine Quinn.
As it waits to be heard by the city’s Public Safety Committee, independent organizations, like the Brennan Center for Justice at the NYU School of Law, have joined the ranks of those supporting the idea that the NYPD should enlist an inspector general, similar to the LAPD.
“We are focused on policing policies rather than individual incidents,” Faiza Patel of the Brennan Center for Justice said. “An inspector general would be uniquely positioned to study these policies from inside the police department and provide a neutral evaluation of their effectiveness and legality.”
The Bloomberg administration and the NYPD have been routinely vocal about their opposition to the bill, insisting the department already has plenty of oversight, including five district attorneys, the New York State Attorney General and the Civilian Complaint Review Board.
“Internally, the NYPD devotes about the same number of personnel to oversight as it does to counter-terrorism — approximately 1,000 — with the nation’s most robust and effective Internal Affairs Bureau, as well as inspectional units throughout the department,” Browne fired back.
Advocates of an inspector general cite recent firestorms over tactics like stop-and-frisk and Muslim surveillance as reasons more monitoring of practices is vital within the NYPD and that the mechanisms in place aren’t nearly enough.
“I have never seen the NYPD go to a D.A. and ask them about a policy. The I.G. would allow that interaction to take place,” said John Eterno, a retired NYPD captain and professor at Molloy College. “Even the FBI is overseen with an I.G., so I see no reason why the NYPD thinks itself somehow higher and mightier that it would not simply adhere to democratic principals that would require some sort of oversight.”
Who would it be?
If the proposed bill is ultimately passed, a candidate for inspector general would be appointed by the mayor.
In her proposal, Faiza Patel and her co-author, Andrew Sullivan, wrote that the ideal candidate for inspector general is someone who can establish credibility by being viewed as a neutral party within the NYPD and the community.
“I’d probably start by looking at lawyers who have a background in working with law enforcement,” Patel said. “I would look for someone of stature, so that he or she can maintain independence. Ideally, the inspector general would be someone who could command the respect of both the police and civil society.”
Robert Gangi, director of the Police Reform Organizing Project at the Urban Justice Center, recommended the proposed inspector general be someone with a law enforcement background.
“The main thing that person needs is integrity, someone who is going to be aggressive,” Gangi said. “More importantly, they have serious concerns about consequences in police practices.”
While the idea of an inspector general has apparent overwhelming support, some experts have raised concerns about the bill that will go before the Public Safety Committee.
The legislation calls for the city council speaker, public safety chair and the civil rights chair to suggest candidates for an inspector general to the mayor. However, those recommendations are non-binding and the mayor would ultimately appoint the inspector general.
“We have skepticism of whether the agency and person in charge can be truly independent,” Robert Gangi, director of the Police Reform Organizing Project at the Urban Justice Center, said. “They are accountable to the same person the NYPD would be accountable to.”
Stefan Ringel, spokesman for Councilman Jumaane Williams, who sponsored the bill, said the inspector general would serve seven years, a term that would span multiple mayorships.
“We are open to other suggestions and amendments for how the process could work,” Ringel said. “We have written the bill in such a way that it will be able to accomplish oversight while legally permissible within city charter.”
Current NYPD oversight
- Five district attorneys
- Two United States Attorneys
- New York State Attorney General
- Civilian Complaint Review Board
- Mayor’s Commission on Police Corruption
Advocates of an inspector general fire back that these offices don’t adequately review policies and practices within the NYPD.
“U.S. Attorneys, District Attorneys, State attorneys general, civilian boards and internal affairs departments are typical of large police departments across the country,” Patel said. “Moreover, these mechanisms are triggered by particular cases — they do not proactively review the usefulness and legality of police policies and practices in the way that an inspector general would.”
She added, “The Mayor’s Commission does look at policy issues, but focuses only on corruption and has very little authority.”