Outside the NYPD, Inspectors General Are Everywhere

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Photo by: FDNY, CIA, DIA, FBI, NRO

The New York Post‘s outrage at Council Speaker Christine Quinn’s support for an NYPD inspector general may have reached biblical proportions (“JUDAS!” screamed its Thursday headline), but the newspaper has found inspectors general pretty useful in the past. Over the past five years, the newspaper has mentioned “inspector general”—in contexts not involving the NYPD—some 450 times.

Recent examples of government incompetence/corruption chronicled by the Post and involving inspectors general include a probe of the city’s top traffic judge for pitching a rental property at work, a Queens nursing home exec billing Medicaid for the use of a Lexus, revelations that construction workers at the World Trade Center were smoking and dealing pot on site, and failures by then-Treasury Secretary Tim Geither to restrict executive pay at corporations bailed out by federal taxpayers.

By comparison, over that same period in the Post‘s pages there were exactly four mentions of the Commission to Combat Police Corruption (CCPC)—one of the watchdogs whose oversight of the NYPD the Post and Mayor Bloomberg argue is more than sufficient.

The low profile of the CCPC ought not to be surprising. It is small (with a staff of 11 and a budget of just over $800,000) and lacks subpoena power. Bloomberg’s first chairman of the CCPC resigned in 2005, citing scheduling conflicts, after telling the City Council that the commission had been hamstrung by a lack of cooperation from the NYPD on examinations of overtime billing and sexual misconduct.

Thirty-three city agencies currently have inspectors general housed within the Department of Investigation, including the Fire Department and Department of Correction. The MTA and Health and Hospitals Corporation have separate ones. At the federal level, the CIA, Department of Defense, Defense Intelligence Agency, Department of Homeland Security, National Reconnaissance Office and National Security Agency all have inspectors general.

It’s fair to ask whether any or all of these inspectors general are as effective as they could be; indeed, the argument that John Liu and Sal Albanese have made in response to Quinn’s move is that merely adding another office is not going to solve the problems with stop-and-frisk. And while the NYPD’s existing monitors might lack full independence or the resources to explore systemic issues (no one is suggesting that cops who make improper stops are committing criminal acts, which is what the Internal Affairs Bureau polices) the NYPD is theoretically under the watch of IAB, the CCPC, the Civilian Complaint Review Board and local and federal prosecutors.

But the notion that inspectors generals are merely a waste of time—or by definition render an agency ineffective— doesn’t survive a look through the Post‘s own archive or at the list of other agencies that have IGs.

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