City council members want to investigate the accident from the NYPD and have been placed under the authority of the Department of Transportation – but both agencies took action against the idea on Wednesday.
Testifying via zoom on Wednesday, DOT and NYPD officials struck back at the council bill, which they claimed would “effectively reduce vehicular deaths.”
“Transferring these investigations to the DOT, an agency without specialized law enforcement expertise – at least in the first few years – can severely compromise prosecutors’ cases and give rise to fewer convictions, which may be caused by vehicles Can effectively reduce deaths and bring less reckless drivers to justice, ”said DOT First Deputy Commissioner Margaret Forgien.
“This bill would require … hundreds of new personnel, and would be a major undertaking outside our expertise, when staffing our essential operations is already tense.”
The bill, supported by Council President Corey Johnson, would establish a unit within the DOT that would have “primary responsibility for the investigation, analysis and reporting of all serious vehicle accidents.”
The DOT will be required to work “in coordination” with the NYPD on the investigation, but will have a final say on public statements and communications. The agency will also be tasked to recommend a street redesign based on its investigation.
Police officials however insisted that the investigation should be left to the actual police.
NYPD’s head of legislative affairs Oleg Chernyavsky told council members, “I think we’re going too far when we’re talking about sprinkling away, main law enforcement responsibilities, and starting giving it to other agencies Huh.”
“I don’t think police officers should be under the direction of any other agency,” he said. “Police officers should be under the direction of the Police Department and the Commissioner of Police.”
The NYPD’s collision investigation team worked in 374 cases out of over 100,000 car accidents last year, leading to 74 arrests so far.
Officials said on Wednesday that in 2019, the unit committed 110 arrests in 349 cases.
Supporters of the bill went on to argue the numbers that the 26-man squad understood and were ineffective. Under DOT supervision, he said, the unit’s work would directly affect road design, speed cameras and other policy initiatives to prevent accidents.
Bill Co-Sponsor Counselor Brad Lander (D-Brooklyn) said, “The goal here is to save lives, reduce accidents, prevent injuries and we can do that.”
“The approach the CIS has adopted is not serious about it.”
All five New York City district attorneys are also opposed to the bill, he said, presented to the council in joint testimony.
Speaking at the hearing, Queens Counselor Robert Holden called the proposal “another attack on the NYPD and a colossal waste of all time”.
‘It is a fact that some accidents are a criminal condition and the police are only eligible for investigation. There is a series of evidence evidence. Interrogating suspects, making arrests at the scene are all part of the NYPD’s jurisdiction, ”Holden stormed.
“I failed to see how anything would change under the dot.”