Newly-installed NYPD Inspector General Philip Eure has been on the job for less than a week, but there are no shortage of demands on his attention. Last week, we reported on the first complaint filed with Eure's office, nestled in the Department of Investigation, by Robert Jereski on behalf of activists including himself whose organizations had been infiltrated and surveilled by undercover NYPD officers.
Today, Communities United for Police Reform, one of the organizations that lobbied for the creation of Eure's office, has issued a report to help Eure narrow his focus. It catalogs public grievances that have piled up in recent years, as the legislation to create the position worked its way through city council. Among other things, the group is asking Eure to to look into the NYPD's surveillance of Muslims, its practice of using condoms as evidence to arrest for prostitution charges, and its selective enforcement of minor offenses, like panhandling (the rate of which is up 300% in the first few months of 2014).
Communities United for Police Reform is also asking Eure to investigate the NYPD's troubling habit of arresting black and Latino New Yorkers at a much, much higher rate than New Yorkers of other races on charges of marijuana possession. How much more? Take a look at the above graph, which projects the number of pot possession arrests in New York City this year. Black and Latino New Yorkers, who make up 85% of these arrests, are represented in purple; other races are in grey. The NYPD is on track to make 28,000 possession arrests this year, the same amount as last year, despite Mayor Bill de Blasio's campaign trail promises to address the insane racial discrepancies. (Last week, Congressman Hakeem Jeffreys stood outside NYPD headquarters, flanked by representatives from Human Rights Watch and the Drug Policy Alliance, calling on de Blasio and Police Commissioner Bill Bratton to address the same issue.)
"Whether it is the persistence of discriminatory arrests of Black and Brown New Yorkers for possession of small amounts of marijuana - in part caused by unlawful searches - or the continued attempts to broadly surveil Muslims communities, there are a range of policing policies and practices that continue to be harmful to communities throughout our city and counterproductive to public safety," Monifa Bandele of Communities United for Police Reform, said via email. "After years of absent and lackluster public accountability for the NYPD, we expect IG Eure will provide comprehensive and independent oversight that investigates and addresses these issues in order to help ensure that the department uses effective policies and practices that keep New Yorkers safe while respecting their civil rights and the law."