December 17, 2012
Hon., Jumaane D. Williams
District 45 – Council Member
New York, NY 10007
Hon., Brad Lander
District 39 – Council Member
New York, NY 10007
Dear Council Members Williams and Lander:
On behalf of the Civil Rights and Liberties Committee of the New York County Lawyers’ Association (‘‘the Committee”), we write in support of proposed New York City Council bill 881-2012. The bill would create a municipal office of the inspector general for the New York City Police Department (“NYPD”). This office would be empowered to “conduct independent reviews of the of the department’s policies, practices, programs and operations.”
Although the NYPD’s actions are already reviewed under several schemes of internal and external oversight, the Committee respectfully submits that the proposed external inspector general for the NYPD would provide a form of top-down, policy- level oversight that is currently lacking. The vast preponderance of New York City agencies already have inspectors general who review agencies activities for not only misconduct, but also incompetence, waste, and misuse of City funds. The NYPD (and the City of New York as a whole) would benefit from similar oversight in the opinion of the Committee.
While the diligent investigators of the Civilian Complaint Review Board and Internal Affairs Bureau give New York’s citizens good service in investigating claims of misconduct and corruption, these groups can only address incidents of individual and group misfeasance as they occur. Policy-level oversight of NYPD activities through an inspector general focused on reducing waste may be able to generate and implement systemic reforms within the NYPD to more proactively curb the phenomena that lead to police negligence and misconduct, which have cost the City of New York over $100,000,000 per year to resolve in each year since 2008.
Some or all of these costs are avoidable, and it would be the role of the inspector general to minimize the effects of such negative externalities on New York City taxpayers. In the same vein, an inspector general could address departmental waste produced by outmoded and grandfathered procedures, such as the nearly $1,000,000 spent by the NYPD on typewriters in 2009. This mode of common-sense fiscal oversight is currently lacking in the NYPD. Additionally, an inspector general could review psychological screening procedures for NYPD candidates, to assure, for instance, that NYPD academy cadets are psychologically fit for duty.
Recent controversies and the NYPD’s history highlight the need for greater transparency within the department, but recognition of the utility of an independent inspector general is not an indictment of poor agency performance. Reviews by the Department of Justice’s external Inspector General for the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”), for example, enabled the FBI’s management to better optimize agency effectiveness in its pivot towards counter-terrorism activities in the wake of September 1lth. The Committee respectfully submits that the NYPD could similarly benefit from a qualified external inspector general’s evaluation of its operational efficiency.
In all, an inspector general would be able to supplement the currently insufficient degree of review of NYPD practices at the policy-level. The Committee submits that an independent inspector general would not act as an impediment to effective police work, but could rather improve the way our great City’s police face their unique challenges. With so much to gain at so small a price, the Committee urges the City Council to support New York City Council Bill 881 – 2012.
Samuel Cohen, Esq., Co-Chair