Legislation that would compel the NYPD to open some of its traffic safety data to the public got a big boost today, when City Council public safety committee chair Peter Vallone Jr. announced his support at a hearing on the bill. The hearing was marked by a tense confrontation between council members and police officials who refused to concede that New Yorkers have a right to such information.
Before the hearing, transportation committee chair Jimmy Vacca was already one of 16 co-sponsors of Intro 120. Today public safety chair Vallone, whose committee has jurisdiction over the bill, signed on. "I support this," said Vallone near the end of the hearing, "and I think the committee will too."
The police department, however, came out strongly against Intro 120, arguing that it would require too much personnel at a time when the department is already facing a manpower shortage. More importantly, police officials made it clear that they fundamentally do not believe that releasing traffic data would promote street safety.
The police's objections stemmed primarily from what was repeatedly characterized as a "philosophical difference" between the department and council members, on the question of whether traffic data is even useful to the public. "The information sought by the bill does not provide meaningful information which can illuminate the reasons for a vehicle accident or the mechanisms used to enhance traffic safety," said NYPD Chief of Transportation James Tuller. "This information is only valuable to those with the training, knowledge and experience to understand its context and interpret it correctly... That is the role of the police commander."
Council members vehemently disagreed with the department's assessment that only the police can interpret data on collisions and summonses. Vacca characterized the NYPD's position as "'Leave us alone. We know what's best.'" "I will not leave you alone," he continued. "I have a right to know."Read more...