The NYPD should have an inspector general to examine its conduct, but the monitor would need independence and a broad mandate to be effective, a panel of criminal-justice and legal experts said Wednesday.

The City Council is weighing a proposal to put the nation's largest police force under the scrutiny of an inspector general. Mayor Michael Bloomberg said there's no need for one, but the idea has gained currency among civil-liberties advocates and others troubled by some police practices, including widespread spying on Muslims.

Proponents contend an inspector general could build public confidence by looking at issues such as the surveillance and the department's extensive use its stop and frisk tactic.

"It is an important first step in bringing some measure of transparency and accountability to the police," said Faiza Patel, a national security specialist at New York University's Brennan Center for Justice.

The center sponsored yesterday's discussion at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, where a police informant kept tabs on a Muslim student group earlier this year. News of the informant prompted criticism Wednesday from City Comptroller John Liu, who called the tactics "un-American."

Shunning a law shouldn't happen at a school where students aim to enforce the law, not break it, said Sarah Duzan, a freshman whose family is from Guyana and whose mother is Muslim.

Inspectors general -- officials with investigative powers -- are a common feature of government agencies.

In New York, allegations of police misconduct are explored by a civilian complaint board, a police corruption commission and the department's 700-person Internal Affairs Bureau -- plus, at times, local and federal prosecutors and judges.

That's enough, the administration says. But critics counter that the current system is focused largely on individual complaints and the NYPD needs a monitor who can look at the bigger picture of police policies and practices.

Under the proposal, the NYPD inspector general would be appointed by the mayor. A majority of City Council members support it.

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