Philip Eure, the Inspector General of the New York City Police Department, gave an outline of the history of police oversight agencies – a practice growing nationwide that he said can help put into place good policies for law enforcement agencies and restore the public’s trust.
Nearly every major metropolitan city in the United States has some kind of police oversight agency, he said, some that came about as part of settlements or consent decrees with the Department of Justice, and in other cases, was the result of a tragic circumstance, such as the shooting of a civilian.
He said not only do civilian review boards help establish better policies and practices for police agencies, but the board can also appear as a neutral agency if a police officer does not feel he or she can get a fair evaluation from an internal affairs investigation or supervisor.
Eure was the keynote speaker for this year’s annual Senator Ron Rice Lecture on Criminal Justice and Public Policy, which was hosted by the Rutgers School of Criminal Justice and co-sponsored by Rutgers Law School, Rutgers Graduate School and the Office of the Chancellor.
Eure is the NYPD’s first Inspector General, a position created in 2014 by the New York City Council. Eure said the NYPD is the nation’s largest police department with 35,000 sworn officers and his office works collaboratively with other established NYPD monitoring agencies to look at individual complaints, and issues that range from the use of choke holds to surveillance practices.
He also addressed police oversight in the City of Newark.
In 2015, the City of Newark entered into a consent decree with the Department of Justice in 2015 that addressed allegations of excessive use of force, unconstitutional police stops, and cases of discriminatory policing, Eure noted. As a result, Newark formed a Citizen Complaint Review Board and has agreed to hire social workers in addition to police officers to work with young adult offenders.
He also cited a federal report on Twenty-First Century Policing released in 2016 that recommended civilian oversight for police departments, a practice that would help strengthen the trust between police departments and their communities.
“Creating a system of accountability and transparency isn’t easy,” he said. He said his office has one guiding principle, “Follow the facts, wherever they lead.”
The progress made by police monitoring agencies, many of which came into place under the Obama Administration, are being curtailed, he said, because the Attorney General under the Trump Administration doesn’t support such reforms. Eure pointed to a report detailing circumstances of aggressive police behavior and arrests, especially against minorities, that was issued about the Chicago Police Department, but the suggested changes were not put into place.
Independent review of law enforcement may last longer than consent decrees and is critical in moving forward in the future, he said. Eure spoke to the students in the audience, adding, “Join with me in the path to creating reform.”
Prior to coming to New York City, Eure was the Executive Director of the District of Columbia’s Office of Police Complaints. He’s served as President of the National Association for Civilian Oversight of Law Enforcement and was a Senior Trial Attorney in the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice.