Chief-Leader
October 22, 2012

 

‘Micromanaging Not Practical’

Cop Unions: Council 'Frisk' Bills a Risky Overreaction

By MARK TOOR

PATRICK J. LYNCH: Unhappy with double-checking.     

PATRICK J. LYNCH: Real solution is adding cops.

 

The leaders of the two largest police unions warned that they see problems ahead with the City Council’s effort to rein in the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk program by limiting the powers of officers to perform the stops.

THE CHIEF-LEADER asked the presidents of the five police unions for their opinion on the bills. Patrick J. Lynch of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association and Michael J. Palladino of the Detectives Endowment Association were the only two who responded.

Don’t Remove Cops’ Discretion

Mr. Lynch, as he has in the past, criticized the department for quotas that require ever-increasing numbers of stops. But he expressed opposition to any attempt to micromanage police officers, saying they should be free to exercise professional discretion.

“The so-called Community Safety Act is improperly focused on the byproduct of a police force that has shrunk by over 7,000 officers,” he said in a statement. “Stop, question and frisk is an effective tool when left to the discretion of an officer. It becomes problematic when quotas are applied. Mandated summons and stop-and-frisk activities were a failed attempt by the department to give the appearance of adequate police coverage in crime-stricken areas when what is actually needed to fight crime is to restore staffing to Safe Streets, Safe City program levels.”

The NYPD’s uniformed headcount reached a high of 41,000 in late 2000. Now there are between 34,000 and 35,000 officers, and Mayor Bloomberg insists that number is sufficient.

Mass Retirements on Horizon

The Safe Streets, Safe City program, which started in 1991, added more than 10,000 officers to the department over a five-year span and levied a temporary income-tax surcharge to pay for them. The first large contingent of those officers became eligible for retirement this year, which will exacerbate the NYPD’s staffing problem unless the city increases its hiring of new officers beyond the 2,000 or so it has taken on in each of the past few years.

Mr. Palladino said in an interview, “My recommendation would be to proceed with caution.” The Community Safety Act “needs a lot more work,” he said. If passed, the laws “could very well doom the next Mayor and the next Police Commissioner because crime is guaranteed to rise,” he said.

Some of the proposals “are really not practical,” he said. “It’s a confrontational process that they’re trying to squeeze into a meet-and-greet format.”

As an example, he cited the bill that would require officers to inform people they stop that they have the right to refuse a search. “If someone does not consent to a search, it raises the level of suspicion that the police officer may have,” he said.

Unpopular But Necessary

He conceded that “stop-and-frisk may rub people the wrong way,” but added that “it’s highly responsible for a large part of the reduction in crime. If they’re going to amend it, they’d better replace it with some other type of effective strategy because crime has nowhere to go but up.”

City Council Members who believe the department is overusing stop-and-frisk and is not conforming with the laws governing the program introduced the bills in February after the Bloomberg administration had refused repeated requests to sit down with them and discuss it.

The bills would:

  • Expand the current definition of racial and religious profiling to include gender identity, immigration status, language, disability, national origin and other indicators, and allow people who feel they were improperly profiled to sue the city.

  • Require officers to explain to people they stop that they can refuse to be searched.

  • Mandate that officers explain what they’re doing, identify themselves and tell people they stop how to file a complaint.

  • Create an Inspector-General for the Police Department.

All the bills have at least 26 sponsors, meaning they are virtually assured of passage in the 51-member Council. But Mayor Bloomberg sent his Counsel to an Oct. 10 hearing to tell the Council that it had no legal authority to pass the bills. If they pass, he will almost certainly exercise a veto, and the Council would have to come up with enough votes to override.