New York News

City Council proposes NYPD oversight

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

New York City Council members are introducing legislation that would create an inspector general to oversee the New York Police Department, amid criticism that the department's stop-and-frisk policy is out of control.

Council members Brad Lander and Jumaane Williams, who has been a vocal critic of the NYPD, say the need for the position is underscored by concerns about the rising number of people stopped, questioned and frisked. Last year, more than 680,000 people were stopped, mostly black and Hispanic men, up from about 160,000 in 2003. About half are frisked, and only about 10 percent are arrested.

Williams and Lander, as well as the New York Civil Liberties Union and other activists, say the policy unfairly targets minorities.

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The position would create independent oversight of the nation's largest department, and would have the power to conduct investigations and review policies within the department. The inspector general would also make regular reports to the police commissioner, mayor, city council and the public, and would recommend corrective action.

The candidate would be recommended and appointed by the city's public safety and civil rights committees under the legislation that was expected to be introduced Wednesday.

Right now, the city's police watchdog agency, the Civilian Complaint Review Board, investigates misconduct claims. The agency was also given the authority to prosecute the claims - but it lacks city funding. The police commissioner makes the final say on whether an officer is disciplined. Criminal allegations are handled by the district attorney offices.

Williams, a black City Council member, was handcuffed while walking on a Brooklyn sidewalk during the West Indian Day parade in September, after he said he received permission to do so from other officers. He said an inspector general position is also needed after reports by The Associated Press on NYPD surveillance of some Muslims, and allegations by some officers of manipulation of crime statistics in order to make the city seem safer.

The bill must have 34 of the 51 votes plus the support of the City Council Speaker to make it veto-proof. Speaker Christine Quinn, a likely mayoral candidate, has been critical of the stop and frisk policy.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly have said the department does not need further oversight. Both have defended the stop and frisk policy as a life-saving, crime-fighting tool that has helped make the city safe. But last weekend, Bloomberg acknowledged the program needed to be "mended but not ended."

He said officers are being retrained to conduct the stops with what he called "civility."

In mid-May, after a federal lawsuit claiming the policy amounted to racial profiling, Kelly announced changes in officer training and supervision, and said the NYPD also reiterated its policy that prohibits racial profiling.

State lawmakers have already proposed a similar legislation that is stalled in Albany. And the city's public advocate has also suggested creating the inspector general position.

The NYPD has more than 35,000 officers; the second-largest police department is Chicago with about 13,000.

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new york city, nypd, stop and frisk, new york city council, new york news
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