Gutted Hit-and-Run Oversight Bill Passes City Council
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Twenty-six bills, a record, were passed in the City Council's final session of the year on Thursday. Friday's headlines, though, were always going to be about just two -- the first proposing a ban on e-cigarettes in indoor public spaces, the second a ban on plastic foam containers.
Among the 24 less buzzed-about pieces of legislation was a bill that would increase oversight of NYPD hit-and-run investigations. Hit-and-runs are up in the New York City in the last several years, according to figures collected by the Department of Motor Vehicles.
There were 25 hit-and-run deaths in 2009, 39 in 2010, 37 in 2011, and 41 in 2012. Investigations into those incidents though, according to family members of those lost, range from insufficient to nonexistent.
Leroy Comrie has represented the 27th District for 12 years. His final piece of legislation was Introduction 1055, which will require the NYPD to report to the City Council on a quarterly basis about when and where hit-and-run incidents took place, the number of hit and run cases that have been closed, and what steps have been taken to find the person responsible. The data, organized by precinct, will be made publicly available online.
Comrie, for his part, doesn't think the bill goes far enough to address New York's hit and run problem. He tells the Voice, "We wanted to do more, but we've been getting major push-back from the mayor's office."
Early versions of the bill included provisions that would have required a detailed report for every incident, a DWI check within an hour of the incident, and a sweep of all cameras in the area. These may seem like basic procedures officers would perform following a collision but, Comrie says, time and time again it's fallen to the families to follow up with the police.
"They're on their way to the hospital or calling their family members; nobody is really thinking of calling their lawyer to argue with the police to fill out a detailed traffic report, but that should be standard operating procedure for the police department," Comrie says.
Unfortunately, that won't change with this most recent bill. "We tried to get a bill written, but the mayor's office and the NYPD council said that this mayor would not pass a bill as adopted," Comrie says. "They felt that it was an intrusion on their policies and procedures. They did not want to be dictated to by the city council as to how they should investigate an incident."
Comrie will be leaving the council to become deputy borough president for Queens. He says he'll continue to lobby for oversight in his new position. "You take what you can get and you push for more. I will still work with the next City Council, to push for getting more."