Over the past few weeks, one scandal after another has hit the police department, making things increasingly uncomfortable for Police Commissioner Ray Kelly and his top advisors, and the accretion of negative news has some people arguing for change in the department’s leadership.
Such a remark would be unheard of just a few months ago, but the hits just keep on coming. The eight officers charged with gun smuggling. The seven drug cops convicted of planting evidence on people to hit their arrest quotas–clear evidence of the danger of having quotas in the first place. Three others convicted of robbing a perfume warehouse. Sixteen officers charged with crimes in connection with ticket fixing, and hundreds of others swept up in looming disciplinary cases related to that probe.
Yes, things are looking bleak for Kelly. A major signal was an unusually critical piece in the New York Times this week. The article pointed out that outside investigators, not the NYPD’s vaunted Internal Affairs Bureau uncovered the misconduct. A dozen current and former prosecutors with experience in investigating corruption told the Times that the department can no longer police itself, and the outside agencies which are supposed to monitor the department are weak and ineffective. The Mayor’s Commission to Combat Police Corruption has been gutted and only issues one report a year.
The article makes a point the Voice made a year ago, in that Internal Affairs is crippled with bureaucracy, and it treats every case the same, whether major or minor. The result is that important cases languish, while minor cases get too much attention.
Meanwhile, Murray Weiss, the former New York Post police bureau chief now writing for DNA Info noted that while Kelly has tried to blame the scandals on “a few bad apples,” the real message of that claim is that “the NYPD is a closed society that will protect its own.”
And Bob Hennelly of WNYC reports that critics are questioning the secretive operations of the Police Foundation, which raises money for NYPD projects from wealthy donors who get access to the department in return. One critic said the money makes the NYPD “beholden” to a private entity with no oversight or transparency.
The New York Post reported that the department has stopped making observation drug arrests–that is, the practice of narcotics investigators arresting people when they see a drug deal taking place.
On Thursday, elected pols held a news conference calling on the mayor to create an independent commission to investigate systemic corruption in the NYPD. State Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries declared that the corruption cases “threatened to undermine the public’s confidence in the police and the department’s ability to police itself.” Meanwhile, Sen. Eric Adams said he will introduce a bill in Albany to create an independent commission if the mayor doesn’t do it.
Over the past 40 years, two such commissions have been empaneled. In the 1970s, the Knapp Commission looked into police taking bribes on a massive scale. In the 1990s, the Mollen Commission examined police robbing drug dealers.
A statement from the mayor’s press office gave the pols the stiff arm, arguing there was no need for a commission, with the five district attorneys, two U.S. Attorneys, the CCRB and Internal Affairs. “There is absolutely no need to create another layer of government here,” the statement read.