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Top Cop Claims NYPD’s Parking Sins Not ‘A Joke’ To Him (And Confirms He Reads Streetsblog)

NYPD Chief of Patrol John Chell (second from left) having a bad day at the office, thanks to a grilling from Council Member Lincoln Restler (inset). Photo: Dave Colon

A high ranking NYPD official insisted in a testy back and forth with a City Council member on Monday that he and the NYPD really do give a damn about police parking on the sidewalk and using covered or defaced license plates on their personal cars.

NYPD Chief of Patrol John Chell told the City Council on Monday that he's used his first four months in his position to do more about illegal parking around police precincts than has ever been done before by the NYPD.

"I have multiple inspection units going out, I am taking vacation days [away from cops], which is financially punitive," said Chell. "I take things very seriously."

He said officers at each precinct called "Integrity Control Officers," plus other unspecified "borough inspection teams," have done 5,000 inspections related to sidewalk parking, bent plates, license covers and parking violations. And Chell added that he's handed down 39 "command disciplines" and dinged an unspecified number of cops on the NYPD's Cop Rapid Assessment Feedback Tool (CRAFT), which impacts officers' performance reviews, in his four months in his current position. A command discipline could cost an officer from five to 10 days of vacation.

Chell's hard sell did not impress Council Member Lincoln Restler (D-Williamsburg), who cited a recent study by a Berkeley professor who visited all 77 police precincts and found cops' cars on sidewalks at 70 of those precincts — proof, Restler said, that the NYPD of continues to ignore the issue of officers' illegal, chaotic and disrespectful parking.

"The idea that there's any enforcement or accountability around this issue at all is a joke," said Restler, who added that he has lived near a police precinct house.

"It's not right the way that we see NYPD officers parking around precincts, but it's also ubiquitous," he added. "So the idea that you all have done 5,000 inspections, when a recent study found that 70 of 77 precincts had illegal parking around them by NYPD officers, means that you're all not doing anything."

Chell had opened his testimony by telling the Council that he constantly brings up sidewalk parking during meetings with NYPD borough commanders. Saying he was well aware of the issues of both illegal parking and covered and defaced license plates at precincts, the NYPD chief hinted that he read this year's March (Parking) Madness contest in Streetsblog and insisted that 911 was not in fact a joke.

"I welcome these blog sites, when I catch wind of something, I am on it. I've been a three-time commander. It drives me insane when I see cars literally parked on the sidewalk, blocking people from walking. I understand what the issue is. And I'm definitely dealing with it and I am not treating it like a joke," said Chell. (The annual Parking Madness tournament pits 16 precincts in a contest to determine the most disrespectful one of the year. This year, the winner loser was the noxious 75th Precinct in East New York.)

Chell did not include any additional information beyond mentioning the 39 disciplinary actions, nor did the NYPD respond to a series of follow-up questions seeking more details. The agency has not previously offered any numbers on discipline regarding plates.

In fact, Streetsblog previously reported that none of the police officers spotted during Editor Gersh Kuntzman's viral video campaign against cops who cover or deface their plates received anything harsher than a letter asking them to no longer break the law.

Restler used his allotted time to not only question the NYPD's commitment to greater respect for neighbors of police station houses, but also to highlight why his own bill to allow citizen reporting of parking infractions should survive the legislative gauntlet and become law. The bill originally called for residents to get 25 percent of any ticket resulting from their report of a car driver blocking a bus or bike lane (among other infractions), but the bounty has been removed, and the bill watered down in other ways. However, legislation would still allow people to circumvent the flawed and broken 311 system to report dangerous parking practices that the NYPD is falling to address. Cops have also been caught harassing 311 complainants.

"I take traffic violence just as seriously as other violence in my community and this city, and we have to drive it down with a laser focus," Restler said.

"A failure of the NYPD to enforce against this issue over many years makes our streets unsafe. So why not empower citizens to do the work that the NYPD has refused to do?"

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