Frank Serpico, the New York police officer who testified in 1971 at Knapp Commission investigating corruption in the NYPD, resurrects his decades old criticism of NYPD by saying that ” we need good role models, and they have to start at the top. ” Twenty six years after Knapp Commission, Serpico told a city council hearing on police misconduct that most of the problems in NYPD lay with the leadership of the NYPD.
While most aspects of policing in New York has changed, the existence of corruption has remained unchanged. The Mollen commission report in 1993, included testimony of corrupt police officers about their involvement with illegal rug trafficking, brutality, and other crimes with other police officers. The Mollen Commission’s main recommendation was for the creation of a permanent outside watchdog body with legal body to oversee NYPD’s Internal Affairs Division and even launch independent investigations.
However, mayor Giuliani and police commissioner Bratton are oppose to the plan, and refuse to give up authority to outsiders. Mollen stated that, ” what we did find shocking was a total ineptitude of police fighting corruption, they are superb in fighting crime-except among themselves. ” Corruption is the product of ndividual police officer and police environment, and its control must mainly should come from the department.
Any number of elements or combination of things can influence the behavior of an organization. Within the police department ; the organizational hierarchy , the police culture, and the interaction with the public influence the level of corruption and brutality in the community, and as long as the NYPD and the city of New York refuse to look into the leadership of the department and the role it plays in ignoring and in many ways encouraging misconduct by the individual officer.
Michael Armstrong, who was the chief council to the Knapp Commission, stated after the Mollen findings that, ” the cops who were engaged in corruption 20 years ago took money to cover up the activity of others now it has gone with competition with street criminals. ” Police Sergeant Jose Trimboli a department investigator, told the Mollen Commission that when tried to root out Michael Dowd and others, his efforts were blocked by the higher-ups in the department. At one point, he was called by management and told that he was under suspicion as a drug dealer.
In addition the police union in New York has put its main esources on protecting it’s rank and file and concern themselves it with defending the of the corrupt officers. To the credit of New City police department, the upper management has made some major changes in their handling of corruption. In 1993 the Internal Affairs Bureau was constructed to perform only the function of police corruption and serious police officer misconduct. Every important case goes through a review at least once every six weeks by the IAB steering committee, comprised of top IAB managers, group commanders from every district, and commanders of specialized units.
Precinct commanders will be nformed of on-going investigations in their precinct and asked for their assistance in performing integrity test and surveillance. IAB also have regular liaison with precinct integrity officers who can be another source of information or assistance. The PRIDE (Programmable Retrievable Data Entry), which was put in use in 1995, allows police investigators to enter information and built data bases of officers accused of corruption, complete history of officer’s background, and link other IAB cases investigated by other departments or investigators.
It can also access additional data bases both within and utside the department. In 1995 the department needed to replace supervisors lost through attrition. The department choice 80 sergeants and 57 lieutenants from over 340 candidates. Promotions will occur on a regular basis until each precinct coverage 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Promotional training for sergeants now takes place before promotion, not afterward. Also, the final examination is now an in-depth assessment of leadership knowledge and supervisory skills. Failure for a second time results in the officer not being promoted.
In addition, sergeant candidates must have een on patrol for a minimum of three years before being selected from the civil service list. The minimum age requirement to enter the police academy has changed from 20 to 22, and recruitment now takes place at a number of colleges in New York. The minimum education has increased, and background information are now completed before police candidates enter the academy. Automatic disqualification have now expanded to include dismissal from public service employment, misdemeanor convictions that have been reduced from felonies, and a schedule of moving violation.
The academy, while ncreasing the graduate requirements, has integrated issues into the areas of bribery and related offences, police ethics, civil liability, and drug enforcement strategies. While all these new steps have changed the face of the police department, the fact the city has paid over $27 million to settle civil claims against the police leads to the conclusion that other fundamental changes are needed. A police department can formulate model policies aimed at deterring and punishing misconduct, but those policies are meaningless unless a system is in the place to Guarantee that the policies are aggressively enforced.
While New York City Civilian Complaint Review Board has investigated civilian complains since 1953, it changed Radically in 1993 due to recommendation of Mollen Commission. The membership Changed to 13 members (five chosen by the mayor, five chosen by the city council, And three by the police commissioner – the only members with police background), It staff of all civilian investigators, with the power to subpoena documents and compel Witness testimony. But there has been strong opposition within NYPD and the mayor Guliani’s office.
Furthermore, CCRB does not jurisdiction to investigate police officer orruption, and has only the power to recommend punishment for excessive force, and abuse of power to the police commissioner. There have been signs of serious conflict between the police and CCRB, and with lack of cooperation by the police, the power of CCRB IS meaningless. A true civilian board needs the power to investigate all violations by the officers, power to make recommendation to prosecutor’s office, and complete corporation of police department and mayor’s office.
The department has to make many fundamental changes in the disciplinary system. The needed steps include increasing the evel of punishment, consistency in punishment, limiting pleas in serious cases, and find cutting the prosecution time of cases of corruption. These steps must include corporation of police management, the mayor, the police union, and the prosecutors office. Police spying or intelligent gathering on other officer’s conduct is a problem. By definition it is a covert activity, unknown to the officers, and it does create mistrust and resentment of the department and brother officers.
Any leadership which controls the individual worker by spying and scare tactics, creates a confused organization. Officers who must make life or death decisions and deals with the most violent group of the citizens in a community can not be expected to monitor every however small dealing with each other and the rest of community. Furthermore the academy must include courses on the nature and causes of complex community problems in the area of human relations, with special emphasis on the advancement and improvement of relation between police and community minority groups.
While NYPD has made major changes and improvements with programs to find and prosecute corrupt officers, the leadership of the department has constantly ignored he need for an impartial monitory unit of police conduct, more education on community changes and needs, and interference of upper management in investigation of corruption, and furthermore has created an environment of mistrust within its rank and file.
The officer who deeply mistrust the civilian population , his own management, and fellow officers will have great difficulty understanding of the purpose of his duties; and when the department creates workers as oppose to a team players to enforce laws, it’s create environment of resentment , mistrust, and potential for corruption and brutality.