State Sen. Leroy Comrie is proposing the New York police commissioner become an elected position – despite mockery over how the idea could spell disaster if ever implemented.
“The famous saying goes: ‘The cure for the ills of democracy is more democracy,'” argues a memo attached to the bill introduced Wednesday by Comrie (D-Queens).
“Local governments all across our state currently hold popular elections for a wide variety of public service administrative positions, such as: sheriff, coroner, supervisor, receiver of taxes et al,” the memo adds.
However much an elected commissioner might improve democracy in New York City in theory – elected officials, longtime cops, and others say the reality would be very different in practice.
“Worst. Idea. Ever,” a veteran cop said Wednesday. “Being police commissioner – especially given New York politics – should not be a popularity contest. It needs to be immune from this toxic political environment.
“The mayor needs autonomy over the police department. The job of police commissioner is about expertise and not electioneering. The democratic process lives with the mayor,”
City Council Minority Leader Joe Borelli (R-Staten Island) said “voter apathy” could help progressives elect someone who is wildly at odds with voters who have favored pro-police candidates in recent election cycles.
“One low turnout race and we end up with another Alvin Bragg,” he said in reference to the progressive Manhattan district attorney, who has been slammed as soft on crime ever since he took office at the beginning of 2022 and began loosening arrest policies.
The Comrie proposal would make police commissioners in cities larger than 100,000 people elected to four-year terms, according to the legislative language.
“Electing executive positions is not just about casting our vote for a single individual, but also entrusting them to appoint capable and effective cabinet members who can work together to govern,” City Councilman Robert Holden (D-Queens) said.
Comrie did not provide comment Wednesday about why he is pushing the much-criticized proposal, which has gone nowhere the past four years, he reintroduced Wednesday to take away the mayoral right to appoint a person in charge of the sprawling agency headquartered at One Police Plaza in lower Manhattan.
“The last thing we need is to inject more politics into the management of the NYPD. Police commissioners already serve at the pleasure of a democratically elected mayor. We need them to be law enforcement professionals who are fully focused on protecting our city, not running for office,” Police Benevolent Association President Patrick Lynch told The Post.
Rank-and-file NYPD members similarly criticized the idea of injecting more politics into the job of running the most famous municipal law enforcement agency in the world.
Leave the politics to Hizzonner – who appointed Keechant Sewell as the first Black woman to lead the NYPD – bill critics say.
Other bill critics wondered whether Albany Democrats might make the FDNY commissioner and other city department heads subject to voter approval if the bill somehow passes the state Senate and gets signed into law by Gov. Kathy Hochul.
The current stock of elected officials hardly inspired confidence in the ability of voters to elected a police boss who can get the job done with minimal hiccups, according to Joseph Giacalone, a retired NYPD sergeant and adjunct professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in Manhattan, said.
“Yeah? No,” he said. “If you look at some of the politicians we had, we apparently don’t get the best-qualified candidates. The police commissioner is and always should be appointed by the mayor so that he or she can report directly to them.”
With reporting by Joe Marino, Craig McCarthy and Joe Marino.