NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – The city’s top cop was grilled Thursday during a City Council committee hearing on the controversial surveillance of Muslim communities. Council members also feuded with him over the controversial practice of stop and frisk.
Council members scrutinized both issues as they heard from NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly.
“When you step on one religious group, Muslims, then you’re stepping on every religious group, and if you take the position, ‘Well its not me. I’m not concerned about it’; it’s not you today, but what if it’s you tomorrow?” said Robert Jackson, the lone Muslim member of the council.
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Kelly defended the NYPD’s surveillance as legal and effective.
“It is not as if would-be terrorists aren’t trying. To the contrary, they’ve attempted to kill New Yorkers in 14 different plots,” he said.
A number of council members, angry over both the surveillance and the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk policies, promised to introduce a measure requiring more independent oversight of the NYPD.
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Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito asked Kelly about a poll showing more blacks than whites disapprove of the Department’s stop-and-frisk tactics.
“In terms of the stop-and-question policy…” Kelly began to say, before Mark-Viverito interrupted: “Commissioner, I’m sorry, I want to respect you, but I just want you to answer that specific question,” she said.
There were also angry exchanges between Kelly and Councilman Jumaane Williams. Williams criticized stop and frisks and Kelly’s claim that violence in the city was going down.
Kelly: “I think, overall, violence is going down when you look at the big picture. There may not be a direct correlation in a particular precinct.”
Williams: “Yeah, but I’m talking about the communities that are most impacted by the gun violence that you continually say leaders and elected officials like myself don’t care about, I’m not giving answers to.”
Kelly: “Well, you’re not giving answers.”
Williams: “The policies.”
Kelly: “You don’t have an answer.”
There was also an additional back and forth between the two men over the issue of gun buyback programs.
Williams: “You pooh-poohed gun buyback programs. I had one in November — 85 guns off the street. One-tenth of what you did with what you did with 700,000 [stop and frisks].”
Kelly: “I don’t pooh-pooh it. It’s of value, but that’s all you hear from elected people.”
Kelly defended the NYPD and questioned whether there is an alternative.
“What I haven’t heard is any solution to violence problem in these communities. People are upset…yet, what is the answer? What have you said about how do we stop this violence?” said Kelly.
A poll by Quinnipiac University shows that voters say the police act appropriately in dealing with Muslims 58-29 percent.
What do you think of NYPD’s Muslim surveillance and stop-and-frisk programs? Sound off in the comments section below!