1966 February 9

NYC Police Commissioner Opposes Civilian Review of the Police in Letter to Mayor


New York City Police Commissioner Vincent L. Broderick, in forceful letter to Mayor John Lindsay, strongly opposed civilian review of the New York City Police Department (NYPD). The letter, which was reprinted in full on this day in the New York Times, was in response to a report of Mayor Lindsay’s Law Enforcement Task Force, dated December 31, 1965. Nearly 25 percent of Broderick’s letter was devoted to the issue of civilian review, calling it a “cruel hoax that would lower police officer morale.

New York City at the time, and after many years of political struggle had an internal civilian complaint review process in which citizens (that is, people who were not employees of the police department) were a minority of the committee. Mayor Lindsay would expand that committee to give the citizen members a majority in 1966. The New York City officers’ police union, however, sponsored a referendum on it on November 11, 1966, and the citizen-dominated committee was abolished by a 2-1 majority later that year.

In his letter to the mayor, Commissioner Broderick mentioned that African-American and Hispanic citizens had been the victims of discrimination in employment, housing, and education. He made no mention, however, of police abuse of people of color.

Many of the riots of the 1960s were sparked by an incident involving the police. The Kerner Commission report, issued on February 29, 1968, documented police misconduct and other forms of race discrimination in America that were the underlying causes of the riots.

Read about the history of citizen oversight of the police: Samuel Walker, Police Accountability: The Role of Citizen Oversight (2001)

Learn more about citizen oversight across the country at the National Association for Citizen Oversight of Law Enforcement (NACOLE): www.nacole.org

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