New York, NY– In response to the increased involvement of the New York City Police Department in collecting counterterrorism intelligence, a new policy proposal issued today by the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law calls for the establishment of an independent inspector general for the department. A Proposal for an NYPD Inspector General outlines the benefits of creating such an office, which would mirror the independent oversight in place for decades at the Federal Bureau of Investigations and the Central Intelligence Agency.
“The police have been charged with the critical task of keeping our City safe and preventing terrorist attacks; however, no agency with the breadth and scope of powers enjoyed by the NYPD should operate without independent oversight,” said Faiza Patel, author of the report and co-director of the Liberty and National Security Program at the Brennan Center. “An inspector general would provide a much needed check on NYPD policies at a time when practices such as surveillance and stop and frisk are called into serious question, while helping to re-establish public trust.”
Currently, the Department’s Internal Affairs Bureau, the Commission to Combat Police Corruption and the Civilian Complaint Review Board review cases of police corruption and individual police misconduct. The City-wide Department of Investigation does not cover the police.
The NYPD’s intelligence and counterterrorism capability, which consists of 1000 officers and operates on a budget of over $100 million, is more in line with the FBI than a traditional police force. The proposal therefore looks to the federal system, where Congressional supervision informed by reports from independent inspectors general, has successfully operated for decades.
If established, the NYPD Inspector General would not be the first in the nation. Inspectors general are already in place at other large police departments across the country, including in Los Angeles, where both the LAPD and the Los Angeles County Sherriff’s department operate with independent oversight.
Creating an independent inspector general in the NYPD would be an enormous step forward for police accountability:
• ENSURING TRANSPARENCY– The inspector general would be in a position to make policing more transparent, thus allowing the Mayor and the City Council to better exercise their oversight responsibilities and increase public confidence in policing. Reliable information about how policies and legal constraints are implemented is especially important in the context of intelligence operations, the specifics of which are often necessarily concealed.
• PROTECTING CIVIL LIBERTIES– As the NYPD continues its important work of keeping New Yorkers safe, the inspector general would have the mandate, expertise, and perspective to make sure that it does so consistent with our constitutionally guaranteed liberties.
• REFORMING FROM WITHIN– The inspector general would be in a position to work with the police cooperatively to address any problems in the Department’s operations and to keep track of progress.
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