July 1, 2013


Mayor Vows to Veto Profiling and IG Bills, But Can He Prevent Override?

Police Unions Pressure ‘Swing’ Council Members

By Mark Toor

After winning City Council passage of bills that would create an Inspector General for and institute new rules against profiling by the Police Department, sponsors turned their attention to ensuring that they could override the promised mayoral vetoes.

The IG bill passed 40-11 and the profiling bill cleared by 34 to 17. “I will veto this harmful legislation and continue to make our case to Council Members over the coming days and weeks,” Mayor Bloomberg said in a statement shortly after passage.

‘A Fight for Your Life’

Pat Lynch    

He underscored his goal at a news conference later in the day, saying, “This is a fight to defend your life and your kids’ lives. You can rest assured that I will not give up for one minute.” Because the profiling bill has only 34 votes—the minimum needed to override a mayoral veto— the Mayor’s Office believes it has a better chance at sustaining that veto. Police unions also geared up for a fight.

He’ll Keep Lobbying

Supporters of the bills acknowledged that Mr. Bloomberg—who had personally made calls to try to sway some of them—will redouble pressure on Council Members. Mr. Bloomberg has 30 days to veto the bill and the Council has another 30 days to try for an override.

“There’s always worries” about keeping enough votes to sustain an override, co-sponsor Jumaane Williams told THE CHIEF-LEADER before a rally outside City Hall at noon on June 27, less then 10 hours after the bills were passed. “I’ve been saying we’re taking this one step at a time.”

At the rally, Mr. Williams invited Mr. Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly to “sit with us instead of continuing to put out misinformation about the bill...Please come to the table with us.” The bills were introduced after the pair had rejected several such invitations to discuss community concerns about whether implementation of the stop, question and frisk program was too aggressive.

The Reverend Al Sharpton echoed Mr. Williams’s call for discussions. “This is not about who beats who, this is about a better city for everyone,” he said.

Unions’ Political Payback

Law-enforcement unions criticized the Council for passing the bills, and most said they would withdraw endorsements of any Council Members who voted to approve the profiling bill.

The Inspector General bill was also controversial, with the Mayor and other opponents saying that an IG would compete with the Police Commissioner’s authority, would discourage outside agencies from working with the NYPD on terrorism, and would blur the lines of command, confusing officers in the street. But the profiling bill has drawn more heat in the past few weeks.

Opponents say it will prohibit officers from using demographic factors such as race, ethnicity, gender, sexual identity, disability, immigration or homeless status or other categories. It would allow people whom officers stop, question and frisk to drag them into court and make them prove the stop wasn’t based on bias. The constant concern over being second-guessed would discourage officers from acting decisively, its foes contend. And police unions fear officers will be on the hook for legal fees.

Supporters of the bill, who hope it would bar officers from stopping someone simply because he or she is black or Latino or transgender or a member of another protected class, say those concerns are incorrect or overblown. Mr. Williams has offered to withdraw the profiling bill if anyone could point out to him the specific language that would bar police from using demographic identifiers, but Mr. Bloomberg declined to address his challenge.

PBA: We’ll Target You

Patrick J. Lynch, president of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, said his organization will work against the re-election of any incumbent who voted for either bill. “In the event the mayoral veto is overridden, we intend to target certain of these pro-crime Council Members for defeat in the upcoming election, supporting their opponents to the greatest extent possible within the legal framework of our political system. No Council Member who puts this city at risk will have a free ride in the next election.”

Mr. Williams said at the City Hall rally that during the rounds of rewrites the bill went through, “we took into account revisions suggested by the PBA.”

Edward D. Mullins, president of the Sergeants Benevolent Association, said in an interview that the SBA will not endorse anyone who voted for the profiling bill. “If they want to earn back a relationship with the SBA, they need to sit down with us and have conversations about what this bill would do,” he said.

He was particularly angry at Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who did not schedule a vote on the bill until after she launched her mayoral campaign. “This is purely political pandering by Christine Quinn,” he said.

Mr. Mullins said he would advise his members not to stop anyone unless they witness something themselves to justify the stop. “It’s not worth being sued for doing God’s work,” he said. “The bill doesn’t just tie the hands of the NYPD, it makes the people of New York City victims on a general basis.”

‘Unworthy of Support’

Referring to the profiling bill, Michael J. Palladino, president of the Detectives Endowment Association, said, “Any legislator who supports an irresponsible bill like this is not worthy of the political support of men and woman who risk their lives behind the gold shield.”

The profiling law “defies common sense and places all of New York City in danger,” said Roy Richter, president of the Captains Endowment Association. “No matter how well intentioned the members of the City Council may be, their action today in passing [it] is quite simply wrong.”

Mr. Richter said that the CEA had voted to endorse four incumbent Council Members—Mark Weprin, Inez Dickens, Mathieu Eugene and Sara Gonzalez—but was holding back on announcing that because they had voted in favor of the profiling bill. “Should these candidates change their position as reflected on the future vote to override the Mayor’s expected veto, the CEA will back these candidates,” he said in an e-mail.

Kelly’s Concern

“Shootings are at record lows,” Mr. Kelly said after a press conference at Police Headquarters. “Some people apparently are not satisfied with that. We’re going to see what this all means if the Mayor’s veto is not sustained.”

In contrast with the dark picture painted by opponents of the bills, their supporters believed they would bring a new era of policing to the city.

“We can have safety and can have police accountability at the exact same time,” Mr. Williams said during the Council debate on the bills, which passed shortly before 2:30 a.m.

‘Won’t Fear Good Guys’

NAACP National President Benjamin T. Jealous referred at the City Hall rally to the anguish and outrage overly-aggressive stop-and-frisks have caused in minority communities. If the bill becomes law, he said, “all of our children only have to fear the bad guys. They don’t have to fear the good guys, too.”

Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, one of six Democrats running for Mayor, said before the rally that he thinks both bills can “repair the relationship between police and the community, which was really strained by stop-and-frisk.” He said Mr. Bloomberg and Mr. Kelly “have outdone themselves in fear-mongering.”

“The Mayor presents a false choice when he argues that New Yorkers have only two options—higher crime or discriminatory profiling,” said City Comptroller John C. Liu, another mayoral candidate. “I have every confidence that we can keep people safe without violating basic rights.”

“These measures will improve the lives of New Yorkers, bring much-needed transparency and accountability to the NYPD, and strengthen relations between police officers and the communities they serve,” said Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, which has sued the city over what it calls an “out-of-control” stop-and-frisk program. Other class-action suits targeting the program as unconstitutional are working their way through the courts.

Two Images in Mirror

Councilman Brad Lander, who co-sponsored the bill with Mr. Williams, said that in lobbying Council Members against the bill, “the Mayor asked us to look in the mirror, think about what you see and whether you can live with yourself.”

He compared that with a request by Mr. Williams during Council debate that members who were not black and Latino imagine themselves as part of those groups and how stop-and-frisk would affect them. Looking in the mirror, “you can see something to fear or see a coalition as beautiful and diverse as New York City,” Mr. Lander said.

During the debate, several Council Members described being stopped and frisked when they were young men. Donovan Richards Jr. said he had felt “dehumanized...I was scared. Today, I’m not scared...I have a chance to do something about it.”

“Today, we are striking a blow against a practice which has become a perverse rite of passage for all young men of color in the City of New York,” said Councilwoman Letitia James, who is running for Public Advocate. “It will do nothing to handcuff or prevent the Police Department from ensuring that all of us are safe.”

Quinn’s Misgivings

Ms. Quinn, who got heat from opponents for expediting the Council vote on the bills, said she would vote for the IG bill but not for the profiling bill because she felt it would give judges too much power over police operations. The bill would not permin plaintiffs to seek financial damages but would allow them to request a court order stopping a practice they felt resulted in profiling.

Councilman Peter F. Vallone Jr. opposed the profiling bill so strongly that he refused to bring it to a vote in his Public Safety Committee, forcing its sponsors to file a discharge petition to go around him. The bill, he said in the debate, “will give every person subject to any police policy an automatic right to sue without any allegation of wrongdoing.”

“It will achieve the ultimate goal of this bill, to put judges in charge of the NYPD,” he said. “Every police policy is in jeopardy here, not just stop and frisk...When the courts are in charge, we will become Chicago, we will become Detroit. Crime will soar, murder will rise, children will die, and there is no greater civil-rights violation than that. And no, it’s not fear-mongering if it’s true.”