The New York Times endorses a proposal in the New York City Council that would subject the nation's largest police department to oversight by an inspector general with broad powers to review departmental policies, including controversial stop-and-frisk tactics. Inspectors general are a common feature in other city divisions, in federal agencies like the FBI and CIA, and in police departments in Los Angeles and elsewhere. Mayor Michael Bloomberg says there is no need for such an office in New York because crime is at an all-time low and the department is working well under its current leadership.
The Times notes that the police department “has a long history of episodic misconduct that erupts every time the leadership falls down on the job.” In 1994, for example, the department's leadership and Internal Affairs Bureau were found to be looking the other way while the police trafficked weapons and sold protection to drug dealers. Since the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, the department, with 34,500 officers, has become one of the largest intelligence-gathering operations in the world, with powers that extend into neighboring states and virtually no outside check, says the newspaper. An inspector general is not a foolproof answer, says the editorial, “but the mechanism has worked well elsewhere and could only strengthen oversight in a police department that clearly needs it.”