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Saturday, November 19, 2011

Policing the Police

     Police departments cannot police themselves anymore than federal politicians can resist using insider information to make killings in the stock market. Politicians get rich and police officers get away with their corruption and misbehavior. Departmental internal affairs units put in place to unearth and investigate police corruption, wrongdoing and misconduct, are, for the most part, window-dressing.

     In New York City, recent cases of police corruption were not uncovered by the department's Internal Affairs Bureau but exposed by outside agencies such as the FBI and the Queens District Attorney's Office. The Mayor's Commission to Combat Police Corruption, a tiny group responsible for monitoring the Internal Affairs Bureau, has no subpoena power and must rely on the department's good will. The watchdog group is therefore toothless.

     Recently, outside agencies uncovered, within the NYPD, cases of evidence planting (drugs), gun smuggling, and a false arrest to cover the crime of a cop's cousin. In the recent NYPD ticket-fixing scandal (see: "They Still Fix Tickets?" October 30, 2011), a scheme uncovered by the Internal Affairs Bureau, internal affairs investigators initially did not want to pursue the case, directing detectives to focus more narrowly on the drug case (involving an officer) that uncovered the racket. Also, one of the IA officers on the case has been indicted for leaking information to the subjects of the inquiry.

     Law enforcement agencies that investigate their own police involved shooting cases almost always justify the use of deadly force. Every year, in numerous cases, after officers have been cleared in-house, outisde agencies draw contrary conclusions. Because cops generally do not trust outsiders, often have things to hide, and by nature are a bit paranoid, they will always resist outside, independent monitoring.

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