A veteran city prosecutor who investigated police corruption over a three-decade career will become the New York Police Department’s next inspector general, taking on a crucial oversight role under a mayor who has makes aggressive policing a priority.
Charles M. Guria, 61, a senior assistant district attorney in Brooklyn, will take office Sept. 12, according to an announcement Thursday from the Department of Investigations, the parent agency of the inspector general’s office.
He will head a small office that in recent years has struggled to fulfill its mandate in the face of police resistance to outside surveillance, a problem that critics say has been exacerbated by the reluctance of former mayor Bill de Blasio to defy the police. The bureau has not produced an investigation report since 2019.
The position had remained vacant during the first seven months of Mayor Eric Adams’ administration as the mayor focused on bolstering police efforts to curb rising crime, a central promise of his campaign.
Mr. Guria spent 20 years in the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office overseeing investigations into police corruption and abuse. He was also an attorney on the Mollen Commission, whose landmark report on the nature and extent of corruption within the police department in the 1990s led to changes in recruitment and discipline. The report has become a model for law enforcement agencies across the country.
Most recently, Mr. Guria was part of a group that spent three years retraining the city’s 36,000 police officers on how to use stop and search tactics after a federal judge found that the The city’s use of these tactics was racially discriminatory and unconstitutional in 2013.
Jocelyn E. Strauber, the commissioner of the Investigations Department, said in a Zoom interview that Mr. Guria’s experience working across and alongside law enforcement was ideal for the job.
“To have both worked with law enforcement in partnership as all prosecutors do, and also had experience monitoring misconduct by law enforcement, was kind of the perfect balance, because we want to be objective, rigorous, critical if necessary,” she says.
Mr. Guria, in the same interview, said he was excited to take on a role that would allow him to use his experience on a larger scale. He credited his father, a former transit police officer, for inspiring him to become a police watchdog.
When he began his legal career as a public defender, Mr. Guria said, his father read the police reports he was reviewing, told him if he thought the officers involved had acted appropriately and gave him questions to ask the police in the witness box. During the Mollen Commission inquiry, her father sat second in the public hearings.
“He had been through the Knapp Commission as a police officer,” Mr Guria said, referring to an earlier panel which found that a majority of police officers had engaged in corrupt activities. “And he felt that a lot of times the NYPD didn’t fix things, and sometimes it took outside pressure to make these things happen.”
“In the family I came out of, it was all about making sure things were running smoothly and not just following a tradition,” he said.
The office he will soon lead was created after the court ruling on stop and frisk to audit police policies. It has a team of 18 investigators, political analysts and lawyers who are responsible for providing recommendations to improve policing in the city. The police department is required by law to respond to his reports.
Several of the watchdog’s reports have led to legislative reforms and changes in the way the police carry out their duties. But its momentum has faltered in recent years.
Former Investigative Department officials blamed the slowdown on obstruction by the police department, which refused to produce witnesses and records, and a lack of support from Mr. de Blasio, who is not intervened.
Ms. Strauber acknowledged that access issues had contributed to the inspector general’s office’s lack of performance, as well as bureaucratic inefficiency.
But she said she hoped access to police department personnel and records would no longer be an issue, as she had established a line of communication with Ernest F. Hart, the police chief in charge of legal affairs. of the department.
This year, Ms. Strauber said, the inspector general’s office plans to release a long-delayed report on the police department’s often-criticized gang database, as well as an overdue report on the department’s compliance with the POST law, a municipal law governing the police. the use of surveillance technology. A third report, on police use of parking signs, will be released later this year or early 2023, she said.
Corey Stoughton, head of special litigation at the Legal Aid Society, said the inspector general’s failure to produce reports on his work in recent years had weakened public confidence in the office.
She criticized what she said was a practice of launching investigations with great fanfare but without public follow-up.
In previous years, the Inspector General’s office produced a series of influential reports. His 2018 investigation into the police department’s response to sexual assault reports galvanized activists who recently persuaded the Justice Department to open a civil rights investigation.
A separate report, which found police failed to substantiate any of the approximately 2,500 bias complaints, led the city to expand the Civil Complaints Review Board’s authority to investigate bias police complaints.
Prior to Mr. Guria’s appointment, the Investigative Department said it cut the inspector general’s salary to better align it with those of the agency’s other inspectors general. Mr. Guria’s starting salary will be $170,000, which is $23,788 less than the starting salary of his predecessor, Philip K. Eure, who led the office from its inception until the end of the year. last year, a spokeswoman said.
Christopher Dunn, legal director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, said Mr. Guria seemed like a good candidate for inspector general. “But at the end of the day, we need a mayor and city council that’s willing to make fundamental changes to the police department,” he said. ”