NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — The New York City Council has voted to pass bills that will create an outside watchdog for the nation’s biggest police department and make it easier for people to file profiling claims against it, overriding mayoral vetoes.
Cheers erupted as the lawmakers voted Thursday to implement the new oversight provisions for the NYPD.
The racial profiling bill’s main sponsor Councilman Jumaane Williams became emotional as he cast his vote and spoke following the override.
“No one on this floor is anti-NYPD. We are anti policies that aren’t working,” he said.
But opponents said the oversight measures will weaken the police department.
“I believe that New Yorkers will rue the day that the City Council overturned these vetoes because I believe, essentially, that we are going to be less safe,” Councilman Eric Ulrich said.
As WCBS 880’s Jim Smith reported, the override required 34 votes to pass. The inspector general measure was overridden with 39 votes. The bill expanding legal avenues for racial profiling victims secured the minimum 34 votes.
In a statement issued just after the override vote, Mayor Michael Bloomberg blasted the City Council and said the provisions will make the city less safe.
“Today, the City Council adopted legislation that will make it harder for our police officers to protect New Yorkers and continue to drive down crime. Make no mistake: the communities that will feel the most negative impacts of these bills will be minority communities across our city, which have been the greatest beneficiaries of New York City’s historic crime reductions.
“Both bills outsource management of the NYPD to unaccountable officials, making it harder for the next mayor and police commissioner to make the decisions they believe necessary to keep our city safe. Today’s vote is an example of election year politics at its very worst and political pandering at its most deadly. The fact is our Administration has zero tolerance for racial profiling – that’s why I signed a racial profiling ban into law in 2004. Intro. 1080 is not aimed at stopping racial profiling, which is already against the law. It is aimed at winning votes. It is a dangerous piece of legislation and we will ask the courts to step in before innocent people are harmed,” the mayor’s statement read.
NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly also issued a statement slamming the City Council’s override:
“There is a reason major law enforcement organizations are all against this legislation: it will have an adverse impact not only on our police officers but more importantly on the people and the neighborhoods they serve, particularly in minority communities. The New York City Police Department does not engage in racial profiling, and indeed has a strict policy prohibiting racial profiling. We also have the finest – and the most diverse – police department in the world and we will do everything we can to make sure it stays that way,” Kelly said in a statement.
Meantime, NAACP National Chairman Benjamin Jealous, who was in the City Council chamber during the vote, released a statement praising the override:
“This is a big day for New York City and America. This is the beginning of the end of our democracy tolerating police using race, ethnicity, LGBT-status, or faith as a substitute for reasonable suspicion. We are thankful to the 34 City Council members who heroically stood up for the American ideals of freedom and justice, and stood together in the face of fact-defying and fear-mongering by the Mayor and Commissioner. As we move on to the March on Washington this weekend, we can do so knowing we have moved New York City and our nation one step closer to realizing Dr. King’s dream,” Jealous said in a release.
Manhattan Borough President and candidate for New York City comptroller Scott Stringer also released a statement just after the City Council’s vote was tallied.
“The City Council today stood up for the civil rights of all New Yorkers by overriding the Mayor’s ill-advised veto of the historic Community Safety Act. This victory was years in the making-the product of grassroots support from New Yorkers in all five boroughs who responded to the excesses of stop-and-frisk, and the surveillance of Muslim communities, with a forceful call for change.
“This week, as we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, let us rededicate ourselves to Dr. King’s dream of an America where all are judged by their actions and their character, not by the color of their skin. The Community Safety Act stands as another critical step on the long road of history that bends toward justice. I thank Councilmembers Jumaane D. Williams and Brad Lander and the entire coalition for their tireless efforts in ushering in a new era where discriminatory policing policies no longer have a home in our City,” Stringer’s statement read.
The council voted in late June to create an inspector general for the police department and make it easier for people to sue for discrimination. Mayor Bloomberg issued his vetoes last month.
The override vote came less than two weeks after U.S. District Court Judge Shira Scheindlin’s order for a monitor to focus on stop-and-frisk, a practice she said the department had used in a way that violated the rights of hundreds of thousands of black and Hispanic men. The city is appealing.
The lawsuit-related component of the legislation had the tougher chance of override; it passed in June with just the 34 votes needed to override a veto.
But “the number of votes needed will be here,” City Council Speaker Christine Quinn said Wednesday, though she reiterated her own opposition to that provision. She supports the inspector general.
As CBS 2’s Janelle Burrell reported, supporters of the provision on racial profiling said the measure sends a message.
“There’s nobody here who doesn’t want to stop the gun violence, there’s nobody here who’s not doing everything they can to do that,” Williams said.
But those who voted against the override say that stop-and-frisk should remain as is because it’s effective.
“People are afraid to carry guns and knives in the streets and I’m afraid that’s going to backslide and we’re going to have a lot more crime in the future,” City Councilman Mike Nelson said ahead of the vote.
Civil rights groups and minority advocates have pushed for the legislation. Supporters say the new laws, coupled with Scheindlin’s ruling, would end practices they see as unfair and would mold a more trusted, effective police force.
Bloomberg has called the bills irresponsible. He and NYPD Commissioner Kelly say that between the council measures and the court ruling, a police force that has fought crime down to record lows will be tangled up in second-guessing and lawsuits.
“We think both pieces of legislation are unwise and will undermine public safety,” Kelly said Wednesday.
With the laws approved through the override, the NYPD will get a watchdog with subpoena power to examine the NYPD’s “operations, policies, programs and practices,” not just stop-and-frisk, like the court monitor.
But the court’s appointee can compel action through the judge; the inspector general can just make recommendations.
The legislation will also give people more latitude to sue in state court if they felt police targeted them because of their race, sexual orientation or certain other factors. The suits could seek policy changes, but not money.
With the mayoral primary just weeks away, the issue of NYPD oversight and stop-and-frisk is center stage. During a debate Wednesday night, the Democratic candidates laid out their positions.
“Racial profiling is illegal in the city of New York as it should be and I support that,” Quinn said in the debate.
Earlier Thursday, Democratic challenger and Public Advocate Bill de Blasio took Quinn to task for her position.
“This speaks to Speaker Quinn’s attempt to deflect my question last night, the existing law, Local Law 30, has literally no enforcement mechanism,” said de Blasio.
Amid cheers from supporters, de Blasio kept hitting on what he labeled Quinn’s hypocrisy.
“She’s going to vote the wrong way on racial profiling and then stand for the photo ops and smile because there was an override vote, which is having it both ways, to say the least,” he said.
De Blasio supports both an inspector general and lawsuits against the police department.
Bill Thompson stands with Bloomberg, opposing an inspector general and lawsuits.
John Liu has called for stop-and-frisk to be abolished completely while Anthony Weiner wants to reform stop-and-frisk and have cops wear cameras.
Ex-councilman Sal Albanese and the Rev. Erick Salgado also took part in Wednesday’s debate.
The candidates also discussed whether they would keep Kelly as police commissioner.
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