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Bill de Blasio

De Blasio Now Says He is ‘Concerned’ About Reckless Cop Drivers — And Vows to Act

The mayor obviously had other thoughts on his mind on Tuesday, but he did vow to take action against cops who regularly drive recklessly. Photo: Gersh Kuntzman

He said it. Now let's hold him to it.

Mayor de Blasio said on Tuesday that he is "going to act" on recklessly driving cops after a monthlong Streetsblog investigation revealed that nearly 40 percent of police employees' private cars have received multiple summonses for serious moving violations such as speeding or running a red-light.

Ask by Streetsblog for his reaction to the series — and what he intends to do about it — the mayor said:

I’m definitely concerned and we are going to follow up on that. Any new information we get focuses us on where there's a problem, we're going to follow up. This is an administration that for five years has been implementing vision zero very aggressively, unlike any previous administration, and I think if you look around the country, you would see we have the most aggressive approach. We've layered on more and more enforcement every year and we're going to be very very aggressive. So this information is something we can work with and we're going to act on.

The mayor declined to offer specific actions he might take, such as docking cops vacation time or suspending them, claiming, "This is the first I'm hearing it." (Point of fact: Streetsblog has asked the mayor's office for comment throughout our monthlong series. And we even asked Mayor de Blasio about it at a prior press conference, prompting a long answer that downplayed the problem.)

Streetsblog reached out to City Hall for clarification, and was told that the mayor's pledge to take action speaks for itself. We asked the NYPD if and how officers are disciplined for reckless driving, and received this comment from department spokesman Phil Walzak:

The NYPD has disciplined officers who themselves were found and/or ticketed for reckless driving, and an officer who was driving a vehicle with a lapsed registration could be subject to discipline. Parking infractions are generally addressed by the individual commands with the issuance of instructions or Command Disciplines. Internal Affairs Bureau is not typically involved in reckless driving cases, though it has occurred in the past. All NYPD employees are expected to follow traffic laws, and the NYPD is proud partner in the Vision Zero mission, which has dramatically improved street safety since its inception five years ago.

Walzak declined to say how many officers have been disciplined in the past or to provide a precinct-by-precinct breakdown so we could independently analyze which local commanders take this issue seriously.

full totals latest

The mayor's comments come after Streetsblog totaled up the results of our investigation into the driving records of 1,308 cars parked in NYPD-only parking or parked illegally with department-issued placards outside of roughly 20 stationhouse in all five boroughs. In all, we ran the cars' plates through the Howsmydrivingny database of parking and camera-issued summonses and found:

    • 1,006 cars — or 77 percent — had been ticketed.
    • 767 cars — or 58.6 percent — had received a camera-issued ticket for speeding or running a red light, the most serious moving violations.
    • 498 cop cars — 38 percent — had multiple serious moving violations.

When we ran the plate numbers of 100 randomly parked cars on residential streets in Manhattan and Brooklyn, we found that 36 percent of the normal people’s cars had been ticketed for a serious moving violation. That's means cops get serious moving violations at a rate 62 percent higher than the general public. And only 19 percent of normal people have received a second ticket for a serious moving violation — which means cops get repeated tickets at twice the rate of the general public.

The reckless police drivers in our series is a rogues gallery that includes a cop’s car in Park Slope with 53 serious moving violations on his record, a cop on the Upper East Side with 41 serious moving violations, and scores of cops with double-digit moving violations at the precincts we examined.

A pending bill by Council Member Brad Lander would allow authorities to impound any vehicle with more than five camera-issued tickets in any 12-month period — and if that bill was law, many officers would not be able to drive to work, records show. Lander’s bill would not exempt cops. It is unclear if the mayor supports such a measure, given what he told Streetsblog last month when we asked why he wants to build more parking spaces for cops if they drive so recklessly:

"A lot of them live very far away from the city, there’s not always great mass transit options, a lot of them have to stay all sorts of hours, a lot of them have to show up on short notice," he said, defending cops' personal choice to drive rather than take transit or live within the five boroughs.

Transportation Alternatives' co-director Marco Conner said he appreciated the mayor's pledge that he is "going to act," but was dubious.

"The Streetsblog stories show a hypocritical approach by the NYPD, harassing delivery workers with no data or connection to Vision Zero, yet taking no action against their own officers who engage in rampant speeding, which is documented to be the number one cause of traffic fatalities in the city," he said. "This is the wolf guarding the henhouse. ... The mayor should ensure that there are administrative consequences for any city employee who engages in repeated reckless behavior, such as taking a safe-driving course at the Red Hook Community Court."

Regarding the NYPD's comment to Streetsblog above, Conner was equally dubious.

"It's unclear from the statement if they actually discipline these officers," he said.

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