Saturday, March 24, 2012

Moderate Republicans v. "Reckless" Republicans

I am reading more than usual these days. One reason: several gifts of fine books that kind friends gave me for my birthday earlier this month. One observation I read today caught my attention:
Republicans who have been Republicans all their lives are up in arms [over] the most reckless lawmaking body that ever sat at Albany. It was the first in the history of the United States, to my knowledge, that ever went so far as to attempt to bridle the press. True, the Anti-Cartoon bill was defeated by the Assembly, but the mere fact that such an infamous measure should have been seriously put forward in the name of the Republican State organization and passed by the Republican Senate was enough to damn the legislature for all time.
You may not have heard of an Anti-Cartoon bill, other than in certain countries with large Islamic populations. I should fess up that the comment above was made in an interview on April 29, 1897 with New York City Republican John E. Milholland in The New-York Journal. Milholland was the father of suffragette Inez Milholland, and during the last 15 years of his life was one of a minority of faithful Lincoln Republicans.

But an Anti-Cartoon bill is not stranger than some anti-environmental and anti-women statements in the GOP primary. Moderate Republicans such as William Ruckelshaus, the first federal EPA Administrator, are on record as saying they don't recognize the GOP of today and have endorsed Democrats.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

NYPD | Mollen Commission, Police Corruption

L to R: Richard J. Davis, Ross Sandler, Judge
Harold Baer, Jr.
NYC, March 20, 2012–This morning I traveled downtown to Worth Street to hear a retrospective discussion of the work of the Mollen Commission at the New York Law School. (Personal aside: Among the alumni of NYLS is John A. Milholland, Harvard Class of 1914–brother of suffragette Inez, who married my great-uncle Eugen Boissevain.)

The Mollen Commission was formally known as "The City of New York Commission to Investigate Allegations of Police Corruption and the Anti-Corruption Procedures of the Police Department". It is named after former judge Milton Mollen, who was appointed its chair in July 1992 by then-NYC Mayor David Dinkins.

In his introduction, the Director of the Center for NY City Law, Ross Sandler, noted that police corruption seems to surface at regular intervals and that successive commissions have wrestled with how to address it.

In 1972, just 20 years before the Mollen Commission was formed, the Knapp Commission issued its report on a sensational series of revelations about corruption in the NYPD, featuring Robert Leuci and Frank Serpico among others. Books and movies followed – “Serpico” and “Prince of the City”. Michael Armstrong, former chief counsel of the Commission, spoke about this report in a February meeting of the Center for NY City Law; his remarks are tapehere. Ross Sandler comments on the 1972 report:
[It] memorably divided the types of corruption by the epigram of “meat eaters” and “grass eaters”. [The former] aggressively sought out opportunities… while grass eaters, the vast majority of the force, were officers who accepted small gratuities, but did not aggressively seek out corrupt opportunities.
Mollen's mandate was to examine and investigate “the nature and extent of corruption in the Department; evaluate the departments procedures for preventing and detecting that corruption; and recommend changes and improvements to those procedures”. The Mollen Commission issued a report in July 1994. Its conclusion was that the nature of corruption had changed since Knapp Commission days. 
Corruption then was largely a corruption of accommodation, of criminals and police officers giving and taking bribes, buying and selling protection. Corruption was, in its essence, consensual. Today's corruption is characterized by brutality, theft, abuse of authority and active police criminality.
The first of the two speakers this morning, U.S. District Judge Harold Baer, Jr., was a member of the Mollen Commission. He said that the first line of defense against corruption is inside the NYPD, in the form of the integrity control officers who report to the Internal Affairs Bureau. The IAB has a hugely difficult job without outside support. A Commission to Combat Police Corruption was created to monitor the IAB, but Mayor Rudy  Giuliani could not reach agreement with the City Council on the power of the Commission. It therefore became a non-statutory body, appointed by the Mayor.

Discussing the Mayor's Commission was Richard J. Davis, former Chair of the Commission to Combat Police Corruption. He had some simple recommendations for making an investigative committee effective. To summarize:

1.     The Commission should be statutory. The Mayor and City Council must agree on a permanent external monitoring body that can both prod and defend the IAB.
2.     It should have an independent board that is given authority.
3.     In particular, it must have the authority to issue subpoenas. Expecting an agency to respond to investigative questions voluntarily, in a timely way, is expecting too much.  
This was a useful discussion for anyone interested in how to investigate systematic corruption or violation of agency standards. Thank you Ross Sandler, et al. The full record on tape is here.