In a WABC Radio interview with Rita Cosby, New York Police Commissioner Bill Bratton confirmed for the first time that the NYPD plans to create a new unit to investigate officer-involved shootings in New York City. Bratton went on to deny that the department’s Shot Spotter technology, now in use, is capable of picking up conversations, and he criticized privacy advocates worried about the devices.
In an exclusive interview on The Rita Cosby Show on WABC Radio late last week that aired on Sunday, Bratton told Cosby that there will be an NYPD unit created specifically for investigating officer-involved shootings:
“I am looking to form a new unit- a force investigation unit- that would have the specific function of taking over what is now a decentralized investigative function that’s handled by, initially by, each of the eight patrol bureaus, instead have that as a unit that would report to the First Deputy Commissioner,” Bratton told Cosby. “It’s modeled after what I created in Los Angeles when I was there and it worked very effectively there. It’s much more cost-efficient. It’s much more timely and I think the overall quality of the investigation, which is already very high as you might expect because it involves officer use of force, but I think we have the ability to enhance it even further.”
Cosby asked how large the unit would be, and Bratton responded that “That’s still in the process we are working on as far as what the staffing would be. We’ve identified some of the lead issue part and I would expect that within several months that we would have it up and running.” Bratton confirmed earlier speculation that Deputy Inspector John Sprague would be leading this new unit. “He will do very well in that environment,” Bratton said. “He’s got a lot of experience. He was recently, most recently, Chief of Detectives over in Staten Island and has a lot of background in the investigative world so Commissioner [Benjamin] Tucker obviously has a lot of confidence in him. He was hand selected by the Commissioner.”
When asked if this unit may serve to restore public confidence in the police, Bratton said he believes that there already is a “high degree of confidence” in police investigations. “We are just seeking to improve the quality of our investigations, the timeliness of it and taking advantage of new technologies that have been developed over the years that we can now bring into these investigations,” he said.
Cosby brought up the NYPD’s recent utilization of the Shot Spotter program, which connects recording sensors that identify gunshot locations to the police. Cosby noted that privacy advocates have been critical of the sensors’ ability to pick up other sounds such as conversations.
“The advocates have to get a life,” Bratton said in response to the privacy advocates’ concerns. “We are not out there eavesdropping. That’s not what the system does, that’s not what it is designed to do, it’s not what it is capable of. So get a life and move on to some other issue. We’re not out there eavesdropping on public conversations. I’ve got enough to do without doing that.”
The full interview is available below.
This post has been updated.