NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Mayor Michael Bloomberg issued harsh language and a pointed threat Wednesday, as he fights a proposal to create an inspector general to oversee the New York City Police Department.
As CBS 2’s Tony Aiello reported, Bloomberg urged the City Council to oppose the plan, and said he would veto the plan if it passed.
Web Extra: Mayor Bloomberg’s Full Statement (pdf)
With pins on their lapels and signs at their protests, activists have been demanding the creation of an inspector general to monitor the NYPD.
They have claimed that “stop-and-frisk” and other policies are unfair to minorities.
The proposal languished until City Council Speaker Christine Quinn this week promised to pass it. That promise prompted a harsh rebuke from Mayor Bloomberg, who said an outside monitor would meddle with police strategies that have driven crime to near-historic lows.
“Together the mayor and the commissioner set the direction of the department, and they do not need an un-elected and unaccountable official to supervise their policy decisions,” Bloomberg said. “The bill being considered by the City Council would undermine the accountability that has been essential to the department’s success and make our city less safe.”
“If the Council passes it – and I urge the members to oppose it – I will veto it. We have come too far to forget the lessons we’ve learned. And those who taking our record low levels of crime for granted are making a terrible and tragic and dangerous mistake. “We cannot afford to play election year politics with the safety of our city, and we cannot afford to roll back the progress of the past twenty years,” Bloomberg added.
“Make no mistake about it,” Bloomberg continued. “This bill jeopardizes that progress and will put the lives of New Yorkers and our police officers at risk.”\\
Quinn is leading the Democratic field to succeed Bloomberg as mayor.
The Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association said Quinn is blatantly playing an emotional issue for votes.
“A leader doesn’t follow that emotion,” said union President Patrick Lynch. “A leader sits down quietly, comes up with a real solution, not pass laws that are unnecessary.”
Opponents have emphasized that if the City Council wants an investigation of stop-and-frisk or the NYPD surveillance program, all it has to do is ask a city department headquartered just a few blocks from City Hall — the Department of Investigation, which under the city charter is obligated to proceed with any investigation directed by the mayor or the Council.
But Quinn is not backing down. She said she expects to have enough votes to override a veto of the inspector general plan.
The movement on the measures comes amid a federal trial over the department’s use of stop and frisk, and it follows a series of stories by The Associated Press that revealed how city police systematically listened in on sermons, hung out at cafes and other public places, infiltrated colleges and photographed people as part of a broad effort to prevent terrorist attacks.
The inspector general would have subpoena power, Quinn said.
“That’s a critical component in making this a really useful tool for the public,” Quinn told WCBS 880′s Alex Silverman. “We don’t want this to be a toothless tiger: We want this to be a real reform.”
The oversight will bring the NYPD in line with departments from other big cities and the federal government, Quinn said. The speaker criticized those, including fellow mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio, who have questioned why it took so long for her to act on the bill.
“It’s easy for people who are outside of the process to point fingers and write press releases. It is much tougher to write legislation that hits the nail on the head and will remain intact if taken to court,” Quinn told Silverman.
The NYPD has said that its surveillance is legal and that stop and frisk — a technique of stopping, questioning and sometimes frisking people who are seen as acting suspiciously but who don’t necessarily meet the probable-cause standard for arrest — has helped drive crime down to record lows and save lives by taking weapons off the street. About 5 million people have been stopped during the past decade, mostly black and Hispanic men.
The other proposals under discussion would require officers to explain why they are stopping people, tell them when they have a right to refuse a search and hand out business cards identifying themselves. Another would give people more latitude to sue over stops they considered biased.
NYPD Deputy Commissioner Paul Browne also reacted to the news Tuesday afternoon, saying, “No police department in America has more oversight than the NYPD…”
“Each of five separately elected district attorneys has authority to investigate the NYPD, as does each of two United States Attorneys, not to mention the New York State Attorney General, along with the independent Civilian Complaint Review Board and the Mayor’s Commission on Police Corruption,” said Browne.
Where do you stand on the idea of an inspector general at the NYPD? Let us know below.
(TM and © Copyright 2013 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2013 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)