December 2019, Post Trivia – Caruso and Congressional Hearing

December 2019

Post 13 Trivia – Caruso and Congressional Hearing

John Young, Patrolman

The following is a complete text of statements delivered by Caruso before Congressional subcommittee on November 28, 1983. Things haven’t changed!

“My name is Phil Caruso, and I am the president of the New York City Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, the oldest and largest police organization in the United States, currently representing more than 18,000 active police officers.

While we welcome the opportunity to express our views here today, we nevertheless are puzzled by the nature of these Congressional hearings. Quite candidly, our perception is that these proceedings were precipitated by a political power struggle in which the police become the unwitting scapegoats. But that is par for the couse because, inevitably, due to the controversial nature of the police function, we remain the ever-vulnerable prey of political expedience.

We find it difficult to accept the need for a Congressional inquiry into allegations of police misconduct because here, in New York City, praise for the remarkable restraint, outstanding efficiency, and highly professional manner in which police officers perform their duties far outstrips criticism. Our police officers take due pride in this aura of public acclaim.

Objective observers continually maintain that police-community relations in New York City, considering the complex social dynamics of our multi-racial, multi- ethical demographics, have been comparatively stable and exemplary. Exemplary to the extent that they can serve as a model for other big cities to follow. Supportive evidence of improving police-community relations is glaringly reflected in the declining rate of allegations brought before the Civilian Complaint Review Board.

Consequently, under the present status of police-community relations as they really are- Not as some would like us to believe they are- we find it truly difficult to share that a systemic pattern of police brutality is provoking racial antagonisms. Under the actual set of circumstances, we suggest that this claim is and itself highly inflammatory political contrivance.

The only real “police brutality” occurring on a routine, wide-scale basis in New York City is that which is perpetrated against the police. For standing as the countervailing balance to those isolated allegations of police brutality are the alarming number of shootings, stabbing, and other vicious attacks that police officers are daily subjected to. Should we, then, call for a Congressional investigation into our agonizing dilemma?

New York City has a multitude of investigative bodies before which a citizen can vent a grievance against the police. As far as the PBA is concerned, the scope of available grievance machinery is far too felicitous and overbearing. No other civil servants- none not even the members of Congress are subject to the kind of intensive scrutiny that police officers are subjected to here in New York City.

For example, a police officer can be brought up on charges in the Police Department’s Trial Room, which proceedings can lead to dismissal from the department; can be tried By the Civilian Complaint Review Board; can be indicted by a grand jury; can be made To testify before the Special State Prosecutor’s Office; can be brought before the City’s Department of Investigations, and can ultimately suffer the severe consequences of a federal court judgment imposed under Title 42 U.S. Code, Section 1983 for an alleged violation of civil rights that abuses police authority.

And if all this weren’t enough, we now have Congressional hearings. The PBA opposed the creation of a Civilian Complaint Review Board in the mid-sixties, yet today we have a CCRB. While we have become tolerant and understanding of a need for the extensive bureaucratic system now in existence, how much more pressure do you think we need.

Once again we candidly submit that these proceedings impugn the impugn the integrity of the police commissioner, the director of the CCRB, the Special Prosecutor, the five District Attorneys with city, and the heads of other investigative agencies that scrutinize Police activities, and shatters the faith and confidence of the people in their system of government. Also, not to be overlooked, it tends to demoralize the fall guys in this city, who must function in already difficult and hazardous environment.

A Congressional hearing here is about as appropriate as it would have been for the New York City Police Department to become involved in the ABSCAM affair. We believe these hearings are unnecessary, unwarranted intrusion into the city’s effective govern- mental administration, an intrusion that raises doubts about the efficacy of certain federal incursions into state or local jurisdictions.

Instead of engaging in polemics, it seems to us that this subcommittee would be better Serve the taxpayers by exerting a strenuous effort towards delivering to New York City, As well as to all other major cities within the United States, an adequate level of federal funding needed to heighten public safety and thereby enhance the quality of life through- out the nation. Such an effort is currently being begged for by the people of this country, and would be much more consistent with the Constitutional mission of insuring domestic tranquility which devolves upon the Congress of the United States.

Moreover, in light of the paltry resources- both human and monetary-with which we have to work, a Congressional citation for the superb overall performance consistently turned in by the men and women of the New York City Police Department would seem to be more fitting and proper Congressional action that can be taken at this time”