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NYPD’s Lax Crash Investigations May Violate State Law


Deputy Chief John Cassidy, executive officer of NYPD's transportation bureau, and other department higher-ups at today's City Council hearing on traffic enforcement. Photo: Uhttp://gothamist.com/2012/02/15/heres_why_drivers_get_away_with_mur.phpJohn Del Signore/Gothamist

Unacceptable. Absurd. “Next to useless.”

Those were just a few terms employed by City Council members today describing the NYPD approach to traffic enforcement. During a four-hour hearing, so packed with spectators and media that some were pointed to an overflow room to listen to testimony, council members grilled department brass on traffic crime prevention and crash investigations and questioned the low number of charges brought against drivers who injure and kill. Council members also heard heartrending testimony from victims of vehicular violence.

The hearing was co-chaired by James Vacca and Peter Vallone, who chair the council’s transportation and public safety committees, respectively.

“Driving in our city is a privilege, not a right,” said Vacca. In his opening remarks, Vacca noted that New Yorkers are more likely to be killed by a speeding driver than a drunk driver, and said that more city pedestrians are struck walking with traffic signals than against. “I want to know that the police department is doing to track down these scofflaws,” said Vacca. “We have to bring these people to their senses. We don’t accept gun violence as a way to die. We shouldn’t accept traffic deaths as a way to die either.”

NYPD officials remained on defense for most of the hearing, as they were quizzed by council members in sometimes heated exchanges. Most questions were fielded by Deputy Chief John Cassidy, executive officer of the department’s transportation bureau. Here are some highlights:

During a break in the victims’ testimony, Vacca said today’s hearing was one of the most “riveting” he has ever attended. Echoing the sentiment, Vallone assured those in attendance that their stories prompted today’s hearing. Said Vallone: “There will be laws arising out of this.”