NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Calling them “dangerous pieces of legislation,” Mayor Michael Bloomberg has vowed to veto two bills that will impose new oversight of the NYPD.
Early Thursday morning, the City Council voted to create an inspector general to review and monitor the NYPD and expand the definition of racial profiling to include age, gender, sexual orientation and immigrant status.
Soon after the bills passed, the mayor issued a statement that echoed the fiery opposition he’s shown in recent weeks.
“Unfortunately, these dangerous pieces of legislation will only hurt our police officers’ ability to protect New Yorkers,” he said. “We have demonstrated why these bills are bad for public safety and I will veto this harmful legislation and continue to make our case to council members over the coming days and weeks.”
Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said Thursday that he believes City Council members haven’t thought out the ramifications of their measures.
His concern is that the measures passed in the dead of the night might change the way NYPD officers approach their work and could have a major impact on the city.
“It may certainly increase the danger to them or have them not take action when they should take action,” Kelly said. “Think about the impact across the city, think about the impact on the business community, on real estate, on tourism.”
Kelly said that the NYPD is being penalized for better record keeping of police activity, adding that anyone on the inside knows that.
On Thursday, as advocates spoke on the City Hall steps in support of the bills, Mayor Bloomberg arrived and they chanted “Sign the bill,” WCBS 880’s Peter Haskell reported.
Rev. Al Sharpton said he feels Bloomberg is offering a false choice.
“We do not need to choose between safety and accountability. We can have both,” he said.
Supporters said if people can trust the police, the city will be safer.
Proponents see the measures as a check on the city’s police force.
“This entity within the [Department of Investigations] will not only look at what individual police officers do, but on the overall policies and practices of the police department,” Council Speaker Christine Quinn said of the responsibilities of a potential inspector general.
Critics have said the bills would encroach on techniques that have decreased crime and would hamper police.
“Regardless of the changes in the language of this bill, if it becomes law, it will lead to increased crime due to the chilling effect it will have on enforcement by police officers who will constantly be second-guessed,” PBA president Patrick Lynch said in a statement. “It will strip officers from the street while they are forced to justify every action in court as not being ‘bias-based.'”
At the center of the controversy is the city’s stop-and-frisk policy.
Earlier this month, the Justice Department called the practice “unlawful” and urged the federal government to step in. About 5 million people have been stopped by the NYPD in the past decade, most of them black and Hispanic men.
A U.S. District Court judge is considering whether to order reforms to stop and frisk after a 10-week bench trial in which a dozen people testified that they were stopped by police solely because of their race.
Bloomberg, Kelly and other lawmakers have all argued that the stops are not wrongful and that the policy is a necessary crime-fighting tool.
“Worst of all, it would achieve the ultimate goal of this bill which is to put judges in charge of the NYPD,” Councilman Peter Vallone, Jr. said before the vote. “Every police policy is in jeopardy here, not just stop and frisk.”
Kelly also argued that the new rules are both dangerous and costly and are setting the city up for more complaints.
“The legislation would generate so many frivolous lawsuits that its sponsor may well have called it the full employment for plaintiff attorney’s act,” he said.
Quinn dismissed those concerns, saying “almost every other city agency ” and “just about every federal law enforcement agency” has some type of monitor.
“When George Bush was president, more monitoring of federal law enforcement was put into place and there was no evidence that it hampered those entities,” Quinn said, adding crime went down 33 percent in Los Angeles after an inspector general was put in place for the LAPD.
Reaction was mixed among New Yorkers.
“I believe crime is going to go up because people will feel they are immune to being randomly stopped,” Marc Cusumano, of lower Manhattan, said.
“I don’t care what law they pass, we will always be on target,” Vanessa Dixon, of the south Bronx, said. “We could be coming from Wall Street or coming from the projects. You got the wrong skin color, you got the wrong background, you will be targeted.”
Both bills passed with enough votes to override mayoral vetoes.
Proponents of the two bills refused to celebrate any kind of victory, given the Mayor’s stance.
“We will celebrate a final victory when the bill is signed into law,” NYCLU spokesperson Donna Leiberman said.
The fight over these two bills is far from over, CBS 2’s Marcia Kramer reported that the Mayor only has to change a single ‘Yes’ vote to a ‘No’ and the veto will stand.
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