New NYPD Inspector General Faces Department Resistant to Recommended Reforms
Charles Guria takes on the official watchdog job with a strong resume but a weak hand, as Department of Investigation records show limited compliance with past directives for change.
A Brooklyn prosecutor and one-time lawyer for the Mollen Commission police corruption panel was named as the NYPD’s new inspector general Thursday, assuming oversight of a sprawling institution that has for years resisted recommendations for reform.
Charles Guria, currently a senior trial assistant district attorney in Brooklyn, and the son of a city public housing cop, is only the second person to hold a job created in 2013 following widespread criticism of the NYPD’s then-pervasive practice of stopping and questioning a disproportionate number of Black and Hispanic New Yorkers.
The appointment by Department of Investigation Commissioner Jocelyn Strauber comes seven months after the prior NYPD IG, Philip Eure — the first to hold the job — resigned as the administration of Bill de Blasio came to a close.
Calling Guria “a dedicated career public servant,” Strauber said that his “his remarkable prosecutorial and investigative experience and deep understanding of police accountability issues within New York City for the past two decades will serve him well as the leader of the critical office.”
Guria started his career as a criminal defense attorney, working for the Legal Aid Society before jumping over to the other side as a Brooklyn prosecutor in 1990 at a time when crime was peaking across the city. He handled public corruption and police misconduct cases before taking a leave to join the Mollen Commission in the early 1990si. He later returned to the Brooklyn DA’s office and ultimately served until 2014 as chief of the Civil Rights and Police Integrity Bureau.
Speaking with THE CITY Thursday, Guria recounted his time with the Mollen Commission, the police corruption panel that ultimately triggered major changes to how the NYPD policed itself. But he noted one recommendation the commission made that was rejected by then-Mayor Giuliani — to create an independent monitor to oversee the NYPD.
Now — 30 years later — he’s filling that role.
“This is a much larger thing. This is the police department as a whole.,” he said. “Some people say, ‘We don’t need oversight.’ Oversight is a necessary thing. People who are in opposition to oversight, it’s like they’re in opposition to daylight.”
And he noted that while he has personally prosecuted bad cops, he’s also relied on good cops to make other cases he’s prosecuted. And, he added, “My father was a housing cop. I’ve seen the police from all ends.”
Guria will be watchdogging a department that has consistently resisted oversight. Besides the IG, the NYPD’s activities are monitored by the Civilian Complaint Review Board and a federal monitor appointed after a court found the NYPD’s overuse of “stop and frisk” unconstitutional in August 2013.
From the start there’s been resistance to this position. Former Mayor Michael Bloomberg vetoed the legislation drafted by the City Council creating it, but the Council overrode Bloomberg’s veto.
The first NYPD IG, Philip Eure, appointed in March 2014, got into a public tiff with then-Police Commissioner Bill Bratton in 2015. Bratton demanded Eure apologize for saying the NYPD was “in the Dark Ages,” and Eure refused to say he was sorry.
A review of DOI records by THE CITY found that the nation’s biggest police force has a consistent track record of either rejecting or slow-walking dozens of recommendations made by the NYPD inspector general over the last seven years.
Since 2015, the NYPD has accepted in principle about 75% of the IG’s 255 recommendations. But as of last month, an analysis of DOI records by THE CITY found that 42% of the recommendations had not yet been fully implemented or were still pending.
Only the city Department of Correction has a worse record, with 55% of DOI’s 295 recommendations to improve conditions at troubled Rikers Island and other jails not yet implemented or still pending.
At the NYPD, top brass often simply reject the NYPD Inspector General’s recommendations outright, refusing to adopt 30 since 2015, records show. It’s unusual for city agencies to outright reject DOI’s suggestions.
That’s what happened six years ago when the DOI IG released a report on whether the NYPD’s enforcement of lower-level “quality of life” crimes had any measurable impact on reducing felony-level criminal activity.
In a 2015 report that examined the concept of “broken windows” enforcement of low-level crime, the NYPD claimed such a strategy led to a decrease in felony crime in the city. The NYPD IG’s report, released in June 2016, looked at whether this was true.
The IG examined how and where the department issued summonses and made misdemeanor arrests in 2015 for crimes such as public urination, carrying alcohol in open containers and disorderly conduct. They found “no evidence demonstrating a clear, direct link between an increase in summons activity and a related drop in felony crime.”
The IG also found quality-of-life enforcement was not “evenly distributed” across the city but was instead concentrated disproportionately in precincts where residents were predominantly Black and Hispanic.
Given how enforcement of low-level crimes brings more individuals into the court system and can undermine police-community relations, the IG recommended that the NYPD “assess the relative effectiveness” of quality-of-life summonses and arrests in reducing felony crime and demonstrate “statistically whether significant relationships exist.”
The department should also look at whether quality-of-life enforcement disproportionately impacts Black and Hispanic residents, males age 15 to 20 and NYCHA residents, and should “consider whether quality of life enforcement has an impact…beyond short-term real time conditions,” the IG recommended.
The NYPD flatly rejected all three recommendations.
The same thing happened after the IG made recommendations following an investigation of how the NYPD handles complaints of biased policing filed against cops by civilians.
A June 2019 report found that between 2014 and 2018, members of the public had filed nearly 2,500 biased policing complaints, but the NYPD had not substantiated a single one.
The IG made 15 recommendations, including that the department should amend its patrol guide to specifically require patrol officers and non-uniformed employees to report biased policing when they see it, and to educate the public about how to report biased policing.
The report also suggested expanding the protected classes that fall under the bias umbrella to include “national origin,” “color,” “age,” “alienage,” “citizenship status” and “housing status.”
NYPD brass rejected all but three of those 15 recommendations.
In Crisis, Then Killed
In some cases, the NYPD has yet to fully implement recommendations the department had accepted in principle years ago. That includes the highly volatile issue of how the police respond to 911 calls about individuals in mental-health crisis.
In January 2017 the NYPD IG issued a report following the death a few months earlier of Deborah Danner, a 66-year-old schizophrenic woman fatally shot by police inside her Bronx apartment.
When Danner was shot, the IG was in the middle of a months-long investigation of the NYPD’s crisis intervention teams (CIT), cops specially trained to interact with people experiencing mental health breakdowns. The report ultimately found that while the training was effective, it was not being implemented throughout the organization and, thus, was falling short of its goal of avoiding more incidents like the one that killed Danner.
The IG made 13 recommendations and the NYPD implemented 11 of them. But as of this week, two crucial advisories had yet to be adopted: that the NYPD adjust its dispatch procedures to ensure that officers with CIT training are directed to crisis incidents, and that the NYPD analyze data regarding mental-health crisis incidents.
In both cases the NYPD accepted the recommendations in principle, and the IG requested a “concrete timeline” for specific reforms within 90 days.
Five years later, both recommendations remain only “partially implemented.” Between the release of the report and this week, 12 more individuals in the midst of mental-health crises have been killed by police.
The NYPD says an upgrade to the 911 system that’s currently underway “may make it possible in the future to direct calls concerning people in crisis to officers trained in CIT,” but the system doesn’t currently allow that according to a DOI report released last year.
Testing the necessary new features in the dispatch system will likely not happen until late 2024. The NYPD IG plans to “monitor this issue until NYPD trains all of its uniformed officers in CIT” or until the 911 system is able to steer calls directly to trained officers.
As for analyzing mental health crisis data, the NYPD says it reviews 911 call details and incident reports and monitors Co-Response Units, which team up cops with social workers to handle situations outside of the 911 system, as well as the activity of no-cop BHEARD teams of EMTs and social workers that handle 911 mental-health calls in a handful of precincts.
The NYPD IG plans to monitor the issue “until the Department demonstrates that information related to interactions with individuals in crisis has been analyzed and considered for the purposes of policy development,” according to DOI’s 2021 report.
One exception to the NYPD’s pattern of disregarding or delaying implementation of the IG’s recommendations is the department’s response to the inspector general’s report released Dec. 18, 2020, critiquing the department’s sometimes violent response to the police misconduct protests of that summer that roiled the streets across the city.
As of last month, the NYPD had accepted all 22 recommendations and has already fully implemented 14 of them. All the rest are currently in the process of being adopted as well, according to the NYPD.
Strauber, who was appointed by Adams in February, acknowledged to THE CITY, “There have been some communication issues between this office and the PD.” But she says she has worked to improve communications with the NYPD and has an open line with the deputy commissioner for legal affairs, the NYPD’s top lawyer.
She says she is focused on improving the NYPD’s implementation rate but she also notes that the inspector general’s efforts go beyond whether the NYPD accepts or rejects the IG’s recommendations.
She noted the NYPD’s rejection of the IG’s recommendations on the issue of biased policing, but said that despite that, the IG’s report inspired legislation that forced the department to confront the issue.
“The recommendations have a force that goes beyond whether they are implemented,” she said.
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