A veteran city prosecutor who has investigated police corruption over a career spanning three decades becomes the next Inspector General of the New York City Police Department, taking on a critical oversight role under a mayor who has made aggressive policing a priority.
Charles M. Guria, 61, a senior trial assistant district attorney in Brooklyn, will step into the role Sept. 12, according to an announcement Thursday by the Department of Investigation, the parent agency of the Inspector General’s office.
He will take the helm of a small office that has struggled to fulfill its mandate in recent years despite police opposition to outside surveillance, a problem critics say has been exacerbated by former Mayor Bill de Blasio’s reluctance to to challenge the police. The agency has not issued an investigative report since 2019.
The position was vacant during the first seven months of Mayor Eric Adams’s 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 a lawyer on the Mollen Commission, whose seminal report on the nature and extent of police corruption in the 1990s led to changes in recruitment and discipline. The report became a model for law enforcement agencies across the country.
More recently, Mr. Guria was part of a group that spent three years retraining the city’s 36,000 police officers to use stop-and-frisk tactics after a federal judge found the city’s use of those tactics racially discriminatory and unconstitutional in 2013 .
Jocelyn E. Strauber, the Department of Investigation Commissioner, said in an interview via Zoom that Mr. Guria when working opposite and alongside law enforcement was ideal for the position.
“Both having worked with law enforcement as all prosecutors do, and also having the experience of overseeing misconduct on the part of law enforcement was the perfect balance in a sense, as we want to be objective, rigorous and critical where necessary. ,” she said.
Mr Guria said in the same interview that he was excited to take on a role that would allow him to use his experience more widely. 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, his father read the police reports he was reviewing, told him if he thought the officers involved had acted correctly, and gave him questions to put officers on the witness stand. During the Mollen Committee’s investigation, his father sat in the second row during public hearings.
“He had gone through the Knapp commission as a police officer,” Mr Guria said, referring to an earlier panel that found that a majority of police officers had engaged in corrupt activities. “And he felt that the NYPD often didn’t address issues, and sometimes it took outside pressure to make those things happen.”
“In the family I came from, everything revolved around making sure everything works well and not just following a tradition,” he said.
The agency he will soon lead was created after the court’s ruling on stopping and frisking to monitor police policy. It has a team of 18 detectives, policy analysts and lawyers who are responsible for making recommendations to improve policing in the city. The police are legally obliged to respond to its reports.
Several reports from the watchdog have led to legal reforms and changes in the way the police carry out their duties. But momentum has stalled in recent years.
Former Department of Investigation officials blamed the delay on obstruction by the police, who refused to provide witnesses and files, and a lack of support from Mr. De Blasio, who did not intervene.
Ms. Strauber acknowledged that access issues had contributed to the lack of output from the Inspector General’s office, along with bureaucratic inefficiency.
But she said she hoped access to police personnel and files wouldn’t be a problem now, as she had established a line of communication with Ernest F. Hart, the police officer in charge of the department’s legal affairs.
This year, Ms Strauber said, the Inspector General’s office plans to release a long-delayed report on the police’s often-criticized gang database, as well as an overdue report on the department’s compliance with the POST. law, a city law that regulates the police. use of surveillance technology. A third report, on police use of parking signs, will be released late this year or early 2023, she said.
Corey Stoughton, who is responsible for special cases 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 believed was a practice of opening investigations with great fanfare, but with no public follow-up.
In previous years, the Inspector General’s Office released a series of influential reports. The 2018 investigation into police response to reports of sexual assault has spurred activists who recently persuaded the Justice Department to open a civil rights investigation.
A separate report, finding that police had not substantiated any of the nearly 2,500 complaints of bias, prompted the city to extend the jurisdiction of the Civilian Complaint Review Board to investigate complaints of police bias.
Before Mr Guria’s appointment, the Department of Investigation said it had cut the inspector general’s salary to better align it with that of other inspectors general in the agency. Mr. Guria’s starting salary will be $170,000, a figure that is $23,788 lower than the starting salary of his predecessor, Philip K. Eure, who led the office from its inception until late last year, a spokeswoman said.
Christopher Dunn, the legal director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, said Mr Guria seemed a good fit for the Inspector General. “But ultimately we need a mayor and a city council who are willing to make fundamental changes to the police,” he said. ”