New York Attorney General Recommends Reducing Mayor’s Power Over Police

New York Attorney General Letitia James recommended that New York City’s mayor give up sole control over the city police commissioner’s hiring, in a preliminary report released on Wednesday on her investigation into the policing of recent protests.

She urged the creation of a commission with representatives from the mayor, City Council, public advocate and comptroller who would oversee hiring and promotion of senior New York Police Department officials. The commission would have final say on the department’s budget and officer discipline.

“There should be an entirely new accountability structure for NYPD,” James said in her report, which also recommended giving more power to the Civilian Complaint Review Board, a city agency that reviews police misconduct.

Mayor Bill de Blasio’s office rejected the idea of a new commission.

“While we thank the Attorney General for her investigation and look forward to reviewing the report in full and working together to further reform policing in this city, we do not believe creating a commission to oversee the NYPD does that,” spokeswoman Freddi Goldstein said in a statement.

In a call with reporters, James said she could not impose her recommendations, but said protesters against police violence who have rallied in the city’s streets for more than a month could compel the mayor to consider adopting them.

She also declined to say if she would note any wrongdoing by officers, some of whom were seen kicking and shoving protesters, hitting them with batons, and dousing them in pepper spray in scenes captured in scores of videos in late May and early June. Dozens of people testified before James last month that they were hurt or injured by police while peacefully protesting.

“I don’t know if we were tasked with the ability to judge the police,” James told reporters. “We were tasked with the responsibility of looking at the interactions between police and protesters.”

De Blasio and his police commissioner, Dermot Shea, have defended the department’s response, saying the use of force was mostly proportionate to what they described as threats of violence by civilians.

Her investigation began in May after New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said he was alarmed by “disturbing violent clashes” between officers and protesters, who began daily rallies after the killing in Minneapolis of George Floyd.

James told reporters a final report and set of recommendations would be released at an unspecified later date.

(Reporting by Jonathan Allen; Editing by Richard Chang)