July 22, 2013


PBA ‘Profiling’ Target: No Foe, So No Sweat

Weprin Defends Stance on Bill

By Mark Toor

Mark Weprin is one of three City Council Members targeted by the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association for voting in favor of a bill that would outlaw demographic profiling by the NYPD. But Mr. Weprin said the opposition from the PBA—and from Mayor Bloomberg—is not affecting his campaign for a second term.

“Right now I don’t have an opponent,” he said in an interview last week. Political sources in Queens report that Mr. Bloomberg’s political operative, Deputy Mayor Howard Wolfson, has been recruiting possible Republican opponents, according to the website DNAinfo.

Ex-Captain Floated

No one has bitten so far, although one possibility, retired NYPD Captain Joseph Concannon, was mentioned in a poll of uncertain provenance. Mr. Concannon, who ran unsuccessfully for State Senate last year, declined to tell DNAinfo whether the Bloomberg administration had tried to recruit him.

Mr. Weprin, 52, said, “The stop-and-frisk system is flawed and needs to be reformed. We are stopping too many people who are just going about their business.” He said nearly 90 percent of those are innocent, meaning they are not arrested or ticketed. They are also overwhelmingly young black or Latino men.

The profiling bill was introduced after Mr. Bloomberg refused for more than a year to meet with community leaders who felt the NYPD was implementing the policy too aggressively.

“Every African-American I know has been stopped or a member of their family stopped,” Councilman Weprin said. One aide who is black had been stopped twice, he said. “It was humiliating and degrading, and he wasn’t treated that nicely. It’s a story I hear over and over again.”

Cops Made It Racial

In one stop, he said, the aide had been playing basketball with two white friends when he was stopped. The cops questioned the aide but did not address his friends at all, Mr. Weprin said. “The officer told him to go straight home, which was inappropriate,” he said.

“People are angry about the way they’re stopped,” he said, referring to complaints of discourtesy by officers who speak harshly and search people they stop without cause or permission.

The Councilman said he was troubled by the rift with the PBA. “I love cops,” he said. “I’ve always had a great relationship with law enforcement.” In fact, he said, police officers are caught in the middle between a data-driven Mayor who has insisted on stop-and-frisk quotas and communities that feel they are being mistreated.

Mr. Bloomberg has promised to veto the profiling bill and a companion bill that would create an independent Inspector General for the NYPD. While the IG bill passed with 40 votes, the profiling bill had just 34, the minimum needed to override a veto. If Mr. Bloomberg or the police unions can persuade even one Council Member to change his or her vote, that veto would be sustained.

Others Targeted

The PBA has been campaigning in Mr. Weprin’s district and those of Jessica Lappin and Daniel Garodnick, passing out flyers and mailing leaflets, with the goal of changing their votes on the override. Ms. Lappin said she would not be intimidated. Mr. Garodnick did not return a phone call and has not otherwise addressed the issue. PBA officials said last week they are continuing to evaluate the union’s efforts before deciding whether to expand them to other Council Members.

The profiling bill would forbid officers from initiating a stop using the “determinative factor” of a person’s perceived race, ethnicity, national origin, color, creed, age, citizenship or housing status, gender, sexual orientation or disability. Those who feel they were improperly stopped could sue in state court not for money damages, but for a court order prohibiting the policy or practice that led to their stop.

Mr. Bloomberg says the bill would prohibit officers from using demographic descriptions when seeking suspects. “That’s just not true,” said Mr. Weprin, agreeing with other sponsors of the bill, who say it uses the same determinative-factor standard employed in a less-sweeping anti-profiling bill Mr. Bloomberg signed in 2004.