The New York Police Department (or NYPD) has long been known for its innovative counterterrorism tactics — and the egregious civil liberties and human rights violations it commits in order to implement those tactics. It seems that New York voters have finally noticed: the vast majority of New York City voting residents believe that there should be a independent body holding the NYPD accountable as an agency.
The New York Police Department has long faced scrutiny for its potentially abusive and overzealous policing practices. From the "Stop and Frisk" policies of the department, in which disproportionately black and Latino men of color have been stopped without true probable cause, to the arrest and harassment of activists and those recording police activities, the NYPD has caused significant damage to communities already marginalized and targeted by police activity. The NYPD's unique positioning as a body that must grapple with significant counterterrorism concerns (especially after September 11) as well as the typical domestic policing of one of the world's largest cities has made it especially susceptible to overreaching the bounds of human rights laws. Subsequently, the funding (it has received 3.5 billion dollars from the federal government since 2002) of the NYPD tends to be particularly controversial, especially because many of its most misguided and offensive strategies have racist implications. In particular, the United States' federal government funded a program that allowed the NYPD to enact surveillance on Muslim-Americans with little discretion. Because the NYPD is technically a local or regional entity, but with the jurisdiction and expenses of a federal or national agency, it maintains the authority of a much larger body without any of the human or civil rights regulations or legal oversight that controls the funding of equivalently powerful agencies.
It’s clear that the NYPD's power must be reigned in to truly represent and protect the people of New York, and the people of New York are realizing that, too. In the survey conducted by Quinnipiac University, a majority of New Yorkers within the margin of error is in support of creating a regulatory position, an inspector that would oversee the ethical parameters of the NYPD, in order to scale back some of the exceptions to the rules that the NYPD now accept as doctrine. While Mayor Bloomberg insists that the NYPD faces enough scrutiny, it’s clear that New York voters feel otherwise. Perhaps it's time for a change in the most uniquely funded and powerful police department in the nation.