One of the more cowardly episodes in city government history took place early last Thursday morning, June 27, when the City Council passed the Community Safety Act, a scheme to let politicians control how the Police Department does its job.
The vote took place while most New Yorkers were sleeping, during a stated meeting of the City Council that started after 9 p.m. the night before. Ironically, this is the time in which most crimes tend to happen—and make no mistake, the passage of the Community Safety Act was a crime committed against every law-abiding New Yorker.
The Council voted 40-11 to approve the first half of the act, the creation of an inspector general to monitor the NYPD. Thirty-four members said ‘yes’ to the second and more controversial half of the legislative package, which grants people greater ability to sue the NYPD if they believe they have been profiled by officers based on race, religion or sexual orientation.
Why an inspector general is needed is cloudy. There is a Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB), the largest civilian oversight agency in the country, which has investigated tens of thousands of complaints and disciplined thousands of police officers. As of 2012, the CCRB—not the NYPD—has the prosecutorial authority for substantiated misconduct cases against police officers.
If the CCRB isn’t enough, people with claims of police misconduct can turn to one of the five district attorneys in New York City, the attorney general’s office, even the federal Justice Department. If an NYPD policy seems questionable or unfair, they can turn to the City Council, mayor and public advocate to seek legal changes.
What’s the point of having an NYPD inspector general other than adding more bureaucracy?
The concept of “stop and frisk” seems to be the burr under the saddle. It is just another tool that can be employed by police officers in the fight against crime. There are a lot of dangerous people walking the streets of New York City, many with concealed guns. If just one person carrying a weapon is stopped by the “stop and frisk” policy, then we are all for it.
Unfortunately, “stop and frisk” is seen through the lens of race and gender. Activists like Rev. Al Sharpton and grandstanding politicians who never had any experience in law enforcement played the race card and twisted this policing issue into a racial firestorm to further their own agendas.
Has anybody asked these folks if they remember what New York City was like back in the early 1990s? Back then, there were over 2,000 homicides per year and crime was rampant across the city. Nobody wanted to live or work here. It took 20 years for the city to turn things around, and much of that is due to the NYPD’s efforts to fight crime and get guns off the street.
Michael Jacobson—director of the Vera Institute of Justice, a Manhattan-based, nonprofit center for justice policy research—reported that “aggressive ‘stop and frisk’; zero tolerance; and computer driven anti-crime programs have been employed with remarkable results” and that “its exactly these policies that are driving crime down.”
“Stop and frisk” is a good technique that could be reformed, but the Community Safety Act would pave the way for it to be abolished. It will reverse all the progress made to make America’s largest city the safest city in the nation.
The safety of our city is too important to be left to bureaucrats.