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Fact Sheet

NYPD Inspector General Bill: A Fact Sheet

Members of the New York City Council re-introduced a bill to create an inspector general for the New York City Police Department (NYPD).The following fact sheet explains the function, structure, and purpose of an inspector general for the NYPD.

Published: May 28, 2013

On Tues­day, May 28, 2013, members of the New York City Coun­cil, led by Jumaane Willi­ams, Brad Lander, and Speaker Christine Quinn, re-intro­duced a bill to create an inspector general for the New York City Police Depart­ment (NYPD). The follow­ing fact sheet explains the func­tion, struc­ture, and purpose of an inspector general for the NYPD.

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Q: What’s the point?

A: The purpose of creat­ing an NYPD inspector general is to help the police work better and to ensure that they fully respect the civil rights of the city’s diverse communit­ies.

  • Inde­pend­ent scru­tiny pushes bureau­cra­cies to ask ques­tions they don’t normally ask, but should. It can lead to better poli­cing, as shown by the exper­i­ence of the Los Angeles Police Depart­ment and the FBI.
  • An inspector general would help the Mayor and City Coun­cil over­see the NYPD by provid­ing them with object­ive, unbiased inform­a­tion of a type that is not currently avail­able.
  • Whis­tleblowers could bring inform­a­tion to the inspector general, who is inde­pend­ent of the NYPD.
  • The inspector general would not work against the police, but rather cooper­ate with the police commis­sioner to correct any prob­lems in the depart­ment.
  • All of this would contrib­ute to enhan­cing public trust in the police and foster­ing better police-community rela­tions.

Q: How would it work?

A: The NYPD inspector general would be part of the Depart­ment of Invest­ig­a­tion (DOI). The City Charter estab­lished the DOI to serve as an inde­pend­ent and nonpar­tisan watch­dog for New York City govern­ment; it already covers more than 300 city entit­ies includ­ing the Fire Depart­ment and the Depart­ment of Correc­tion. The bill requires the DOI Commis­sioner to exer­cise over­sight over the police as well. The DOI Commis­sioner must appoint an inspector general dedic­ated to the NYPD and notify the City Coun­cil of the person selec­ted.

Q: What would the inspector general do?

A: The NYPD inspector gener­al’s basic job is to invest­ig­ate, review, study, and audit police oper­a­tions, policies, programs and prac­tices. The inspector general will decide which invest­ig­a­tions to perform, but must conduct any invest­ig­a­tion direc­ted by the Mayor or City coun­cil. Based on these invest­ig­a­tions, the inspector general will make recom­mend­a­tions for improv­ing NYPD oper­a­tions, policies, programs and prac­tices. The inspector general cannot require any changes, but rather will report these recom­mend­a­tions to the NYPD, the Mayor, and the City Coun­cil for action. The police commis­sioner has an oppor­tun­ity to comment on these reports. The inspector general will also submit annual summary reports on the office’s over­sight activ­it­ies.  Public versions of all reports and find­ings must be avail­able online.

Q: Would the inspector general have subpoena power?

A: As part of the DOI, the NYPD inspector general would have the author­ity to subpoena witnesses and evid­ence with the approval of the DOI commis­sioner.

Q: How would sens­it­ive inform­a­tion be protec­ted?

A: While an inspector general is designed to increase trans­par­ency and account­ab­il­ity, this bill recog­nizes that there will be a need to ensure that some inform­a­tion does not become public, such as the details of an ongo­ing invest­ig­a­tion or the names of under­cover officers and confid­en­tial inform­ants. The inspector general would have access to this sens­it­ive inform­a­tion, but the Mayor, in consulta­tion with the NYPD, would estab­lish guidelines to determ­ine how it should be protec­ted from public disclos­ure. One way in which the federal govern­ment protects sens­it­ive inform­a­tion is by limit­ing distri­bu­tion of full reports and creat­ing public versions that reflect essen­tial issues but are scrubbed of oper­a­tional details.

Q: How will the inspector general work with Internal Affairs and the CCRB?

A: The NYPD inspector general would not have any author­ity to discip­line police officers or adju­dic­ate complaints about specific instances of miscon­duct. However, both the director of the Civil­ian Complaint Review Board and the chief of the NYPD’s Internal Affairs Bureau would be required to report to the inspector general any prob­lems they might encounter related to policies and prac­tices harm­ing the effect­ive­ness of the depart­ment, public safety, the exer­cise of civil liber­ties and civil rights, or the public’s confid­ence in the police force.

Q: How is this bill differ­ent from the one intro­duced last year?

A: The inspector general bill intro­duced in June 2012 (Int. 881) would have created a new office, inde­pend­ent of the DOI. This bill (Int. 881-A) places the inspector general inside the DOI. The strength of this arrange­ment is that we know the DOI system works and we know it is legal. It will ensure that the inspector general has suffi­cient author­ity to do his or her job while preserving the Mayor’s power and ulti­mate account­ab­il­ity for city agen­cies.