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Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Investigating Police Conduct in New York City

The New York Times - Letters - November 14, 2011

Investigating Police Conduct in New York City

To the Editor: As chairman of the Commission to Combat Police Corruption, I am grateful for your call to put “more force” behind our commission (“Can They Police Themselves?,” editorial, Nov. 7). But I take issue with some of your comments. The Internal Affairs Bureau did, in fact, “uncover” most of the “problems” to which you allude. In all cases, it participated actively, to the extent that was appropriate, in investigations that resulted in many indictments of corrupt police officers and dismissals from the department. As for us, our commission already has “full authority to oversee the Internal Affairs Bureau as well as the broader department.” And subpoena power, while potentially useful, is not a priority need. The department has responded promptly and appropriately to our requests for documents, and we have access to Department of Investigation subpoenas should we need any. Our real need is to reverse budget cuts that have reduced our investigative staff from six attorneys to two supervisory attorneys and two investigative analysts. Combating corruption in the Police Department is the business of five district attorneys, two United States attorneys, an aggressive Internal Affairs Bureau — and us. If we all fail, we can always rely on the press to tell us so. But criticism is helpful only if it is on target. MICHAEL ARMSTRONG, New York, Nov. 7, 2011

To the Editor: A drive past any police precinct in New York City will answer the question “Can They Police Themselves?” The police park their personal cars wherever they wish, blocking fire hydrants and crosswalks, and they are often double-parked. One side of the street in our neighborhood hasn’t been cleaned in years; the curb is filled 24 hours a day, 365 days a year with police cars, most of them backed onto the sidewalk. “Zero tolerance” has been a slogan of several recent commissioners, believing the philosophy to be the key to lowering crime rates of all kinds. Perhaps a bit of zero tolerance ought to be tried with the police culture, which thus far continues to believe in laws of its own creation. S. E. PHILLIPS Brooklyn, Nov. 7, 2011

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