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New York Times Room for Debate


An Inspector General for the Police

April 09, 2013

By Heather Mac Donald

Officer use of force in the New York Police Department is at a record low. In a department of nearly 35,000 officers who have about 23 million civilian contacts a year, there were 36 incidents in 2011 in which officers (62 in total) fired their guns at suspects. Nine people all posing a potentially deadly threat were killed, 19 others injured.

In 1971, officers in a much smaller police force and city killed 93 people and wounded 221 others.

The department’s $70 million, 700-officer-strong Internal Affairs Bureau, in league with New York’s five district attorneys and two federal prosecutors, continues to ferret out corrupt officers (alas), but there is no evidence that corruption is anywhere near systemic, as it was in decades past.

Civilian complaints filed with the Civilian Complaint Review Board in the first half of 2012 were lower than in any comparable six month period since 2003, and down almost 50 percent since 2009.

The N.Y.P.D.’s crime-fighting success is of historic dimensions; no department in the country comes close to the N.Y.P.D.’s 80 percent crime drop since the early 1990s. The department’s public safety triumph is due in considerable measure to the accountability that it demands from its commanders, who are expected to articulate their crime-fighting strategies and show results.

In short, the N.Y.P.D. is without peer in its professionalism, accountability and accomplishment, and is recognized around the world as such. Why, then, does it need an inspector general, whose proposed responsibilities would duplicate those of the police commissioner and the city’s existing oversight bodies?

This new bureaucracy is being pushed for one reason only: To radically curtail, if not end, the department’s use of stop, question and frisk as a crime-fighting tool. But the mayor’s race is being fought in part over just that issue. If the next mayor believes that he has a political mandate to end proactive policing, he or she can do so and will be answerable for the results, good or bad.

Seeking political cover from a patently superfluous new office will simply muddy the chain of command and drag the department down with unnecessary red tape. The stop, question and frisk issue will be decided with the next election; the inspector general’s office, however, will last indefinitely, stripping millions of dollars annually from other uses.

The Los Angeles Police Department’s inspector general provides a glimpse of what that money will buy: Preposterously nit-picking efforts to find phantom evidence of racial profiling. The huge sums that the new bureaucracy will require, if they are so readily available, could be better spent hiring more officers, providing additional training or supporting more youth outreach, like the admirable Explorer’s program.

Original Source:



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