In 2013, the New York City Council established an Office of the Inspector General (IG) for the New York City Police Department, a major step toward increasing accountability strongly supported by the Brennan Center. At the time, the NYPD was under fire for its racially biased stop-and-frisk program and its post-9/11 surveillance of Muslims.
Unlike other NYPD oversight bodies that focus on individual cases, the IG aimed to investigate and review the department’s policies and practices. Its work was meant to provide transparency and accountability, protect civil liberties, and promote police reform. In its early years, the IG’s office conducted valuable investigations and published reports detailing problems with NYPD policies and practices, which often burdened minorities. In many cases, these reports triggered important reforms.
But the IG’s recent work has not lived up to its early promise. Its output has dwindled, and the office has faced a lack of leadership and staff as well as serious obstacles in getting information from the police. It also appears that the IG’s autonomy has been undermined. The NYPD IG must be revitalized so it can once again perform its critical function of ensuring that the nation’s largest police force does not go unchecked.