City Names Long-Awaited NYPD Inspector General

Host Intro: There’s a new pair of eyes watching over New York City cops. They belong to Philip Eure [“YORE”], the first ever inspector general of the NYPD. The position was created in response to concerns over stop and frisk and other contentious law enforcement tactics. Eure’s appointment marks another turn in that fiery political debate, and will be watched closely in the months ahead. Avi Wolfman-Arent reports.

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The press room teemed with reporters.

AMBI: Clicking cameras—keep under until “this was a big one.” [0:07]

Cameras clicked incessantly. Sweat dribbled down the appointee’s forehead. As political appointments go, this was a big one.

Philip K. Eure is the newest Inspector General of the NYPD. He’s also the first. In his role, Eure will have the ability to investigate the country’s largest police department and issue subpoenas. And although he won’t be able to punish wrongdoers or enact reforms, he will be a watchdog for an organization that has resisted added oversight. Just as crucial, he won’t answer to anyone inside the NYPD. Instead he’ll operate under the city’s Department of Investigation, an independent city agency that investigates corruption. Department commissioner Mark Peters appointed Eure. He says this is a historic moment for New York City in the fight to balance law enforcement with civil liberties.

PETERS: The city has an obligation to make sure that policing both protects and respects our rights and dignity.

Eure echoed those sentiments in his remarks to the press. He also referenced the political firestorm over stop and frisk that led to his position’s creation.

EURE: In the police accountability field, New York City’s story was followed closely by those of us who understand the significance of an external office that looks broadly at police department policies and procedures and how the police interact with the public.

New York City’s story began under Mayor Bloomberg when the NYPD was encouraged to carry out street searches known as stop-and-frisks. The mayor and his allies said the tactic reduced crime. Opponents say it was unlawful and disproportionately targeted blacks and Latinos. The battle became national news. City Council ultimately passed the law that created the Inspector General position despite a Bloomberg veto. Linda Sarsour heads the Arab American Association of New York and was instrumental in advocating for the creation of an Inspector General. In addition to concerns over stop and frisk, her constituents believe they’ve been victimized by a post-9/11 NYPD that unfairly targets Muslims. She treated Eure’s appointment with optimism.

SARSOUR: I think he’s the perfect person. I think the social justice police reform movement is very happy with the pick and we hope to see some tangible results from his position.

Sarsour says she’s impressed with Eure’s credentials. In 2000, Eure became the first executive director of Washington D.C.’s Office of Police Complaints, an organization with similar oversight to his new position.

Some advocates, however, are still wary. Delores Jones-Brown is a law professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice and the founding director of the school’s Center on Race, Crime and Justice. She isn’t convinced the new Inspector General will be completely free of mayoral influence.

JONES-BROWN: The extra layer of accountability is important and we will have to be very mindful of whether people feel, he is as independent as many communities would like him to be.

Although Mayor de Blasio didn’t appoint Eure, he did appoint Eure’s boss, Mark Peters. Peters was de Blasio’s campaign treasurer. Still, Peters says de Blasio wasn’t involved in hiring Eure, and that the selection was presented to the Mayor some time in March.

PETERS: As you know, this is an independent position. After I had gone through a lengthy process and after I had determined that Phil was the best possible candidate and determined that he was my candidate and that this was who was going to be running the IG’s office—I then asked Phil to meet with a number of people including the mayor, including the police commissioner, including several others.

Of course for all those who fretting about the Inspector General’s independence, there are plenty who believe the role shouldn’t exist at all. The city’s police unions vigorously opposed the creation of an Inspector General last summer. They claimed it would create bureaucratic confusion and said the NYPD’s Internal Affairs Bureau offered enough oversight. The idea of a having a lawyer watch over the rank and file clearly didn’t appeal. Eure did his best to allay those concerns.

EURE: I am not the police commissioner. I am the head of the external review agency. I don’t think there can be any confusion about that.

Perhaps no confusion, but there will be curiosity. Eure declined to set policy priorities for his first months in office, saying it was too soon. He starts his new position in May.

Avi Wolfman-Arent, Columbia Radio News