Testimony Before New York City Council Public Safety Committee Hearing on Community Safety Act

Liberty and National Security Program Co-Director Faiza Patel testified before the New York City Council Public Safety Committee about the need to establish an inspector general for the New York Police Department.

October 10, 2012

Oral Testimony

Faiza Patel

Co-Director, Liberty and National Security Program, Brennan Center for Justice

 NY City Council Public Safety Committee Hearing on Community Safety Act

October 10, 2012

Thank you for the opportunity to present my views to this Committee. My name is Faiza Patel and I serve as Co-Director of the Liberty and National Security Program at the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law. I will be talking today about the need to establish an inspector general to review the policies and practices of the NYPD.

The NYPD has the important task of keeping the city safe. We have been fortunate to see drops in crime and have been spared a successful attack. But serious questions have been raised about some police policies. I will mention just two:

  • The stop and frisk policy which disproportionately targets young Black and Latino men.
  • The surveillance of Muslim New Yorkers, which was documented by the Associated Press.

Lawsuits are one way to address these types of issues. And the police are facing a number of these. But a more proactive and cost efficient path is to establish independent oversight of the police policies and practices. Oversight by democratically elected officials – such as this Council – informed by an inspector general has worked for federal agencies and major police departments.

Like the FBI, the NYPD runs its own counterterrorism and intelligence operation. It has 1000 officers in 12 countries and a budget of $100 million. But the FBI is overseen by an inspector general who reports regularly to both the Attorney General and Congress.

Inspectors general have also proved their worth in police departments. The LAPD inspector general, for example, covers both police misconduct issues and intelligence operations. In the last decade, LA has seen improvements in police-community relations and a steady drop in crime rates. 

In New York, however, systematic oversight is sorely lacking. What oversight there is, focuses on corruption and individual cases of police misconduct.  

  • The NYPD Internal Affairs Bureau’s mission is “effective corruption control.” It is also not independent.
  • The Mayor’s Commission to Combat Police Corruption studies the NYPD’s systems for combating corruption. It does not look at other policies or practices. 
  • The Civilian Complaint Review Board examines complaints against individual officers.
  • The Department of Investigation does not cover the police.
  • New York’s U.S. Attorneys and District Attorneys also don’t oversee NYPD policies and practices. They get involved when these policies and practices become an issue in a particular case.

The City Council has the duty to oversee the police. An inspector general can assist the Council in doing so by providing regular, reliable information. The inspector general can work with the police to address problems and also help build trust with the City’s diverse communities.

For all of these reasons, I believe that oversight by an independent inspector general can only strengthen the NYPD.

Thank you for your attention.