Advocates propose priorities for new NYPD watchdog
The new watchdog for the New York City Police Department hasn’t been on the job for a week and calls for investigations into the NYPD are already stacking up.
On Monday, the coalition group Communities United for Police Reform — which played a role drafting and promoting the 2013 bill that created the oversight office — laid out nine priorities for the first-ever NYPD Inspector General Philip Eure, whose first day on the job was May 27.
Among the recommendations are investigations into what the group describes as unlawful searches of in arrests related to marijuana and condom possession, as well as excessive or deadly force by officers. The report also asks the inspector general to look into the NYPD’s ongoing surveillance of Muslim communities and how it disciplines officers in cases of misconduct.
However, the lack of concrete data on many of those issues is of concern for Candis Tolliver, an assistant advocacy director with the New York Civil Liberties Union, a member group with Communities United for Police Reform. After years of legal battles, NYCLU secured statistics on stop-and-frisk that helped lawmakers pass the inspector general bill.
Tolliver said numbers on summonses given for low-level, non-violent offenses offenses, such as open container violations or riding bicycles on sidewalks or marijuana possession in small amounts, would help get a better look at the impact of law enforcement beyond just lower crime rates.
“That information is necessary to understand what is happening, who it’s happening to and what effect certain polices are having on communities,” she said. “The problem right now is we just don’t have that information.”
The 20-page report calls on the inspector general to look into those unreported numbers. It also includes one priority that specifically questions the Police Department’s record on transparency, requesting an audit of the NYPD’s compliance with the state’s Freedom of Information Law, whereby individuals can request administrative records.
The NYPD did not respond to a request for comment by the time of publication.
The report cites then-Public Advocate Bill de Blasio’s 2013 report criticizing the Bloomberg administration’s compliance with the law, failing the NYPD’s record.
“I am not a lawyer. There are lawyers who do this with great care and I’m sure they followed the appropriate rules,” de Blasio told reporters in April in response to questions about repeated FOIL requests on the arrest and immediate release of a political ally.
But the impetus of both the report and the inspector general, said Monifa Bandele of the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, is to create transparency and accountability within NYPD outside of One Police Plaza.
“The idea is for there to be accountability that functions in a way that it doesn’t matter who’s in positions of power,” Bandele said.
Bandele, whose group is also a member of the reform group, said advocates remain hopeful Eure will operate free of political concerns and influences while also working objectively and cooperatively with the public.
Doing so, she added, will help communities both stay secure and feel safe.
“We want what everyone wants — we want a safe community,” she added. “I want my community to feel safe just as much as anybody in any neighborhood.”
Last week, the inspector general’s office received its first complaint from an activist group that undercover officers with NYPD’s Intelligence Division infiltrated various political activist groups.
Follow Chester Jesus Soria on Twitter @chestersoria