Monday, June 30, 2008


New York City has what's called the Mayor's Commission to Combat Police Corruption (CCPC). It's intent is clear from its name, or at least it should be.

A former lawyer for the CPPC is saying that she was fired for asking questions, something you'd think would be a defining function of someone on an oversight commission. And what did she question? She questioned the NYPD's use of a taser on an already restrained teenage suspect:

A lawyer for the Mayor's Commission to Combat Police Corruption said she was fired when she asked too many questions about the NYPD's use of force.

Willa Bernstein, one of the commission's investigating lawyers, said she thought her job was to critique the NYPD's Internal Affairs cases.

"The real job description should have been: 'Just go along. Don't rock the boat,'" she said.

Bernstein said she was fired from her $75,000-a-year spot in October after the chief of NYPD Internal Affairs complained to her boss that she had an "anti-police" bias.

Bernstein said there was a target on her back after she questioned why police officers Tasered a violent teenage suspect after he was shackled and handcuffed in a police stationhouse. [What incident was this? I can't find it.]

In a September meeting about the incident, Bernstein compared the case to the notorious Abner Louima police brutality case in 1997.

"I said this case needed to be aggressively investigated because no one wanted another Abner Louima case," Bernstein said. "IAB and people in the room were horrified by the comparison."

Internal Affairs Chief Charles Campisi spoke to Bernstein's boss, Commission Executive Director Marnie Blit, according to documents obtained by the Daily News.

"It was after this incident that I started preparing to terminate Willa," Blit wrote in a Nov. 27 memo.

"She insulted IAB and destroyed any credibility she might have when criticizing their cases," Blit wrote. ...

"I was trying to bring a lawyer's perspective to cases, to improve and protect the department," said Bernstein, 41, who left another city job because she believed in the work. She said she even took a civilian course at the NYPD Police Academy to better understand the job.

Formed in 1995, the commission was designed to provide independent oversight of the NYPD. Its $444,914 annual budget covers legal staff, executive director, office manager and expenses. Its commissioners, who review IAB cases, are unpaid.

"The commission is not independent, and doesn't do much," she said. "Rather than pretend, the city should make it real or disband it and save the taxpayers' money."
I'd say Bernstein is right on with her comment at the end of that clip; the commission doesn't even have the power to subpoena NYPD for documents. Commissioner Kelly can deny its requests for information, and he indeed has.

In 2005, the head of the CCPC reported to City Council that disputes with the NYPD and a lack of subpoena power reduced the commission's effectiveness. That same head announced his resignation days after appearing before City Council. By the way, the article in that last link also pins the CCPC's lack of power on Rudy Giuliani:
The commission was formed in 1995 by Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani after the Mollen Commission raised questions about the department's ability to police itself and recommended an independent panel with subpoena power. Mr. Giuliani fought the City Council's effort to form such a panel and won a lawsuit barring its creation.
Rudy sued to stop meaningful and independent police oversight!

So is the CCPC there to prevent police corruption, or is it there for appearances? It seems like that later doesn't it?

Tell me again what's going to keep the NYPD from using its 3000+ new tasers excessively (as has happened in so many other large cities where tasers are put in the field).