NYPD, Health Department Decide Public Shouldn't Know How Many New Yorkers Are Killed By Cops Every Year
from the undercounting-to-better-serve-the-only-public-that-matters:-police-officers dept
The NYPD has never been the most honest — or the most transparent — law enforcement agency. It enjoys the secrecy it has. And it really enjoys the secrecy it grants itself. And it seems to enjoy hiding as much as it can from the public at all times.
Trying to live up to its self-imposed reputation as “New York’s Finest” must be exhausting. So much bad news to bury so often. The city has asked for stats from the department but it’s not getting honest answers. New York’s cops kill far fewer people per capita than almost any other major city in the United States. But they kill far more people than the NYPD is willing to admit, even when directed to share this data with the city’s Health Department.
[Former health commissioner] Dr. [Mary] Bassett’s team identified 105 people killed by the police or police activity during the period from 2010 to 2015, more than double the 46 the agency had publicly reported for those years. Of the unreported deaths, 13 were bystanders hit by police bullets or pedestrians killed from vehicle accidents during police activity.
Dr. Bassett passed this information on to Mayor Bill de Blasio shortly after protests over the killing of George Floyd by a Minnesota police officer began taking off across the country. There was more bad news appended to the email sent to the Mayor. Not only were there more killings than the NYPD reported, but the numbers seemed to show biased responses by officers.
The team also found deep racial disparities in the deaths. For example, six black New Yorkers and five Hispanic residents who died as a result of encounters with the police during this period were unarmed; no unarmed whites were killed.
Unfortunately, the full report — containing the official under-counting noted by Dr. Bassett — was buried by incoming Police Commissioner Demot Shea, who decided this collaboration wasn’t worth continuing. Neither does the current head of the Health Department, Oxiris Barbot, who has yet to publish Bassett’s findings.
It doesn’t look as though the Mayor will be much help in bringing this information to the public or ensuring the NYPD does a better job counting deaths related to police interactions. The NYPD has apparently decided certain people aren’t worthy of the “officer-involved killing” label. This includes people who were killed by vehicles while being chased into traffic by officers and others whose paperwork was incomplete when their bodies arrived at the medical examiner.
While Mayor de Blasio promised to rein in the NYPD after several years of being catered to by Mayor Blue Lives Matter himself, Mike Bloomberg, he has done little to curtail the worst aspects of the department after officers and union officials very publicly expressed their displeasure at his supposed lack of support. It appears de Blasio needs the support of cops more than he needs the support of the public.
Going forward, things aren’t going to improve. The NYPD will decide how many deaths its officers are involved in and only officially approved numbers will be released. No outside assistance will be accepted and no impartial reflection of the true cost of aggressive policing will make its way into the public’s hands.