At an occasionally contentious City Council hearing this morning, NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly expanded on his directive to beef up the unit that investigates automobile crashes involving pedestrians and cyclists. Kelly said that the Crash Investigation Squad (formerly the Accident Investigation Squad) will add 10 new investigators, and will train 21 more officers to act as technicians to assist with investigations. As of last year, AIS only had 19 investigators.
Councilmember and Public Safety Committee Chair Peter Vallone, Jr. praised Kelly's actions, and pointed out an excerpt of Kelly's prepared remarks that stated that CIS "will be notified when there has been a critical injury or when a Police Department executive believes the extent of injuries and/or unique circumstances of a collision warrant such action."
Vallone took this to mean that particularly heinous crashes, not involving injury, would be investigated for potential criminality. "So if someone backs into an intersection at rush hour…it will be investigated and they'll be prosecuted for it," the councilmember said. Kelly did not attempt to amend or alter Vallone's remarks.
City Councilmember David Greenfield also attempted to get Kelly to explain why the department writes many more tickets for violations like cell phone usage or tinted windows, instead of speeding or reckless driving. Last year the NYPD wrote 71,305 speeding summonses, down from the 76,493 they issued in 2011. "I presume it is because it's more difficult to issue those summonses?" Greenfield asked.
"I would agree with you," Kelly said. "You have to have calibrated devices to give speeding summonses, you need experts." Greenfield then asked what citizens can do to report reckless drivers.
"Practically speaking, not much. It's just a reality. You can't report someone running a red light" because the officer needs to witness the offense, Kelly said. Citing his experience as a prosecutor, Vallone added that he was disappointed that the police department did not charge motorists with reckless endangerment.
Councilmember Dan Garodnick attempted to have the commissioner break out how many of last year's 1 million moving violations were given to cyclists or other vehicles, but was rebuffed by Kelly, who said he didn't have the information at hand.
Finally, in the wake of the death of 6-year-old Amar Diarrassouba in Harlem last month, the committee asked Kelly why the department hadn't filled the necessary number of crossing guards—there was still money in the budget for them. The crossing guard that was supposed to be at her post to aid Diarrassouba was missing the morning he was killed.
"It's not a very easy job to fill, not a particularly well-paying job," Kelly said, noting that the starting pay is $10 an hour, $12 after ten years. "It is a part-time job, it is a split-shift…We appreciate them, they do a good job."