New York Post
August 22, 2013

City Council overrides Mayor Bloomberg’s vetoes on NYPD stop-and-frisk measures


A furious election-year battle over modifying the NYPD’s controversial stop-and-frisk policy culminated in a stinging defeat yesterday for Mayor Bloomberg, who warned that “minority communities across our city” would end up the biggest losers.

After more than two hours of heated — and sometimes tearful — debate, the City Council overrode the mayor’s vetoes of two bills aimed at containing the longtime practice.

Both measures — which include an inspector general with the power to oversee the Police Department — will become law in 90 days.

Seeing no legal route to stopping the IG, the mayor threw up his hands on possible court action.

But Bloomberg vowed a fight to the finish to block the second bill, which expands the right of people to sue for alleged racial profiling.

He said he would ask the courts to intervene in that case “before innocent people are harmed.”

The council’s 39-10 override vote to create an IG within the city’s Department of Investigation to monitor cops was a foregone conclusion.

The administration hoped to pick off one or more council members to head off the second override of the bill allowing victims of racial profiling to sue in state court, as well as federal court.

Despite lobbying by the mayor and police unions, that measure was approved, 34-15, the minimum vote required to overturn his veto.

Council Speaker Christine Quinn, locked in a mayoral race against two rivals who have attacked stop-and-frisk, insisted the IG wouldn’t impair cops who have brought down crime to record low levels.

“We’ve had a situation in this city where we have had no entity that could bring constant focus and oversight with the City Council on issues such as stop-and-frisk,” Quinn said, noting other city agencies have similar oversight.

Her campaign issued a press release saying: “After Months of Empty Rhetoric From Others, Quinn Gets Results on Reforming Stop and Frisk.”

The second bill — which Quinn opposed — expanded the definition of bias-based profiling to include gender, sexuality, housing status and a host of other identifying factors.

It also created a right for New Yorkers to sue the NYPD for policy changes, not monetary rewards, when they feel they have been unfairly targeted in a stop-and-frisk.

Individual officers could also be sued, but the burden of proof would be much higher.

Bloomberg was unsparing in his criticism.

“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,” he warned.

“Today’s vote is an example of election-year politics at its very worst and political pandering at its most deadly.”

Two members were absent for the vote — Public Safety Committee Chair Peter Vallone (D-Queens), a staunch opponent of both bills, and legally embattled Councilman Dan Halloran (R-Queens), who initially voted for the IG bill and against the profiling measure.

Proponents were jubilant.

“This bill will do nothing but help restore some of the trust that is gone between police and community,” said sponsor Jumaane Williams (D-Brooklyn) of the IG measure.

The councilman broke down in tears as he cast his vote, recalling his dad, who recently passed away.

“My father would be proud,” he said.

Co-sponsor Brad Lander (D-Brooklyn) added, “We all want a New York City where we’re safe walking down our streets. We all want a New York City where it’s not a crime to be who you are.”

Queens Republican Eric Ulrich blasted both bills as a waste of taxpayer dollars, noting the IG will cost nearly $2 million a year.

“What we’re doing today, unfortunately, is taking away a very effective crime-fighting technique,” he said, while hecklers in the packed audience booed.

“We are going to be essentially less safe as a result of this.”

Fellow Republican Vincent Ignizio of Staten Island defended stop-and-frisk as an irreplaceable policing tool.

“This tactic does save lives,” he said. “It’s indisputable that there are 8,000 guns not on the streets threatening any of us because of the great work of the Police Department and its commissioner.

“I’m concerned about the jettisoning of aggressive policing.

“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,” he said.

Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly say minorities are getting stopped in much greater numbers than whites only because cops are targeting high-crime areas where most residents are minorities and responding to leads and fair suspicions.

The IG will work in tandem with a federal monitor, recently assigned to overhaul stop-and-frisk as part of a federal judge’s ruling that the city is appealing.

Kelly, like Bloomberg, said minorities would be hurt most.

“It will have an adverse impact not only on our police officers, but, more importantly on the people and the neighborhoods they serve, particularly minority communities,” Kelly said through a spokesman.

“The New York City Police Department does not engage in racial profiling and, indeed, has a street policy prohibiting racial profiling.”

Police-union chief Patrick Lynch, who hasn’t backed a mayoral candidate, slammed the laws.

“The same people that stood on the steps of City Hall with all those press conferences promoting these laws, I hope when crime comes up, they’re back on these steps trying to solve the problem and explaining to the public why crime went up because of these bills,” he said.

In a dramatic moment during the council vote, pregnant Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras (D-Queens) offered testimony about the impact on her future child.

“We are all taking a huge step forward in protecting the rights of all new Yorkers,” she said.

“I look forward to giving birth to this young man because I know he’s coming into a better New York City.”

Earlier in the day, a spat escalated between Quinn and her chief mayoral rival, Bill de Blasio, who claimed Quinn was a late arrival in reforming stop-and-frisk.

All three Republican candidates for mayor — John Catsimatidis, Joe Lhota and George McDonald — slammed the council.

“These overrides were an appalling display of political pandering at the expense of New Yorkers,” Lhota said.