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NYPD Inspector General Bill Introduced in City Council

Today, Council Members Jumaane Williams (D-Brooklyn), Brad Lander (D-Brooklyn), and 22 of their colleagues introduced legislation in the New York City Council to create an Inspector General for the NYPD. An Inspector General would ensure that NYPD policies and procedures operate effectively and are consistent with the law. The Department has come under fire in recent months for controversies including the abuse of stop-and-frisk, surveillance of Muslim communities, arrest quotas and the downgrading of crime complaints, which would all fall under the purview of an Inspector General’s oversight.

The NYPD is the only major police department in the country without independent oversight. Inspectors General provide oversight for all federal agencies (including the CIA and FBI), and every other significant New York City government agency (including the departments of Education, Parks, Housing, Sanitation, Correction and Fire).

“Every government agency needs oversight, especially those that impact public safety, security and civil liberties,” Lander said. “New Yorkers deserve to know their police department is doing everything it should to keep them safe, to spend their tax dollars effectively, and to protect their civil liberties.”

“True accountability is impossible without effective independent oversight,” Williams said. “That is what the NYPD lacks, and that is what an Inspector General will provide. This bill will go a long way toward addressing the civil liberties concerns shared by thousands of New Yorkers, and it will ensure more efficient spending of taxpayer dollars towards our public safety.”

An Inspector General, appointed by the mayor, would have the authority to review NYPD policies, conduct investigations, recommend changes to make the Department more effective, and make regular reports to the police commissioner, mayor, city council and public about its findings. The Inspector General would also have subpoena power to compel the testimony of any person and to require the production of documents.

Inspectors General in other cities and at the federal level help law enforcement improve its counterterror and crime fighting procedures. For example, the FBI’s Inspector General audited the agency’s counterterror efforts and recommended a national risk assessment of terrorist threats and provided constructive criticism to make the FBI’s terrorism threat identification strategy more effective.

The City Council members were joined at a press conference prior to introduction by major organizations advocating for good government, public safety and civil rights, as well as individual New Yorkers impacted by discriminatory police policies.

“Hardly a day goes by without another story of NYPD abuse hitting the news and undermining the ability of the community to trust the police department,” said New York Civil Liberties Union Executive Director Donna Lieberman. “The NYPD’s culture of misconduct needs real reform. New York City needs an Inspector General to monitor and shine a light on the policies coming out of One Police Plaza and their impact on New Yorkers’ civil liberties and civil rights.”

“There is no doubt that quotas exist with respect to summonses, arrests, and stop and frisks,” said John A. Eterno, professor and associate dean at Molloy College and retired NYPD captain. “Additionally, the downgrading of crime reports is occurring city wide. Such systemic corruption needs to be investigated by an impartial outside body independent of the NYPD. Certainly an Inspector General is an excellent first step toward regaining the integrity of our police department so that it can serve our communities, crime victims, and the police officers themselves.”

“There is growing sense of frustration building in communities across New York City who feel that the NYPD operates on a presumption of guilty until proven innocent,” said Monami Maulik, executive director of DRUM (Desis Rising Up & Moving) and with the Muslim American Civil Liberties Coalition (MACLC). “Our membership, as mostly Muslim immigrants, also faces stop and frisk, surveillance as Muslim communities, harassment as low-wage workers like cab drivers and street vendors, and targeting as youth in public schools. It is the same pattern of broad suspicion, policing and criminalization especially across communities of color.”

“The abuses of discriminatory policing faced by so many of our communities have made it clear that independent oversight of the NYPD is needed to restore people’s faith in the system,” said Joo-Hyun Kang, a spokesperson for Communities United for Police Reform. “From the illegal use of stop-and-frisk, to surveillance based on religious and racial profiling to the downgrading of criminal complaints, the evidence demonstrates that the NYPD cannot be left to continue policing itself.”

“It is with great pleasure that the Arab American community in New York City supports the NYPD Inspector General dill,” said Linda Sarsour, executive director of the Arab American Association of New York. “We believe it’s a common sense legislation that creates independent oversight and transparency for the NYPD, two key attributes of any law enforcement agency to be effective and accountable to those it works to protect and it would help restore trust necessary in communities for a good working relationship with the police.”

“As a transgender woman, I am afraid to walk in the street anymore,” said Divay Mendez of Make the Road NY. “I go out dressed as a woman, and automatically I get stopped. I went out one night recently to get tacos on Roosevelt Avenue and the police stopped me. They asked me what I was doing and I told them I was hungry. They proceeded to take off my wig, made me kneel down for a long time on the sidewalk and then arrested me and charged me with prostitution charges. There is a pattern of mistreatment of transgender women and we need someone we can go to who will investigate and address it. This bill would make that possible.”

“As faith leaders, we believe that a choice between our security and our civil liberties is a false one,” said the Rev. Dr. Katharine Henderson of Auburn Seminary. “Rather, we envision a world where every person lives with human dignity in safe communities. We believe that creating an Inspector General for the NYPD would help make this vision possible here in New York City.”

“Meaningful oversight is an essential element of any good management, and it is at least as important for a police force as it is for contract agencies,” said Sam Massol, associate director of Common Cause/NY. “The people of New York City deserve to have an oversight body that can hold the largest police force in the country accountable. It’s clear to us that an independent oversight body with subpoena power is needed. An independent Inspector General is essential to assure the public of the NYPD’s integrity and effective functioning.”

“The Interfaith Center of New York welcomes Councilmembers Williams and Lander’s Inspector General legislation as a step towards rebuilding trust between the NYPD and New Yorkers of all faith traditions,” said the Rev. Chloe Breyer of the Interfaith Center of New York.

“The hope of the Muslim American community is that this proposed legislation will lead to greater accountability for all New Yorkers,” said Al Hajj Imam Talib Abdur-Rashid, president of the Islamic Leadership Council of Metropolitan New York. “It has our full support across ethnic and generational lines.”

“We know that the Jewish communities of New York City, like all communities, want to be assured that we are being kept safe,” said Rabbi Rachel Kahn-Troster of Rabbis for Human Rights North America. “Keeping us safe, however, means that the NYPD should target suspects based on actionable evidence, not their race, religion, place of birth, race or ethnicity.”

“Reports of surveillance of Muslim communities and unlawful stop and frisk practices have made many immigrants feel under siege and harassed by the police,” said Chung-Wha Hong, executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition, an umbrella group of nearly 200 immigrant organizations in New York State. “We applaud the City Council for taking steps to address these concerns and believe the creation of an Inspector General for the NYPD is an important step to restore trust in police. We look forward to working with the City Council to bring greater accountability and oversight to the NYPD.”

“The New York Jewish community stands with the New York Muslim community impacted directly by this surveillance program.” said Marjorie Dove Kent, executive director of Jews for Racial and Economic Justice. “Every one of us should stand in solidarity when it comes to protecting the civil liberties of all New Yorkers—regardless of faith, ethnicity or race.”

The Inspector General legislation is the fourth bill to be introduced in the City Council as part of the Community Safety Act. A fifth bill will be introduced in the summer. Collectively, the Community Safety Act will, in addition to the Inspector General bill:

  • Create a strong ban on racial profiling by the NYPD (Intro. 800, 27 co-sponsors)
  • Protect New Yorkers against unlawful searches by the NYPD (Intro. 799, 24 co-sponsors)
  • Require that NYPD officers identify themselves and explain the reasons for a stop and frisk (Intro, 801, 26 co-sponsors)
  • Require improved reporting by the NYPD on its practices (to be introduced)
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