New York’s City Council created an inspector general to review police practices, overriding Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s veto and putting another check on the stop-and-frisk policy he championed as a crime-fighting tool.
The predominantly Democratic council voted 39 to 10 yesterday to pass the inspector-general measure and 34 to 15 to nullify a second veto of a bill allowing lawsuits when an officer uses racial profiling as a reason for questioning someone. Votes by at least 34 of the council’s 51 members are required to override a mayoral veto.
The inspector-general decision followed a federal court ruling this month that police violated the U.S. Constitution in stop-and-frisk encounters with hundreds of thousands of mostly black and Hispanic young men. To restrain the practice, U.S. District Judge Shira Sheindlin appointed a monitor she said would ensure that police act lawfully.
“It is a smart policing idea that will keep us the safest big city in America but do it in a way that reunites police and community, and do it in a way so that people who have a concern about policies and practices will have a place to go to have their voices heard,” Council Speaker Christine Quinn said at a news briefing before the vote.
Bloomberg, 71, has said the council’s actions and the court-appointed monitor would hinder patrol officers’ ability to make split-second decisions on the street, making it more difficult to fight crime and terrorism.
“The communities that will feel the most negative impacts of these bills will be minority communities” which have benefited most from reduced crime, the mayor said in a statement following the votes.
Of 4.3 million stop-and-frisk searches in the past nine years, more than 80 percent were of blacks and Latinos, according to the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights, the plaintiff in the federal suit. Fewer than 1 percent of the stops led to recovery of a gun, the center said.
The mayor says stop-and-frisk helped reduce crime 34 percent since he became mayor in 2002. The city had 25 percent fewer homicides this year through mid-June compared with the same period in 2012, when it had 417, police data show.
The numbers show that New York is the safest big U.S. city, according to Bloomberg, who said the overrides were aimed at winning votes, not stopping racial profiling which was outlawed in the city in 2004.
“Today’s vote is an example of election-year politics at its very worst and political pandering at its most deadly,” the mayor said. “We will ask the courts to step in before innocent people are harmed.”
The mayor is founder and majority owner of Bloomberg News parent Bloomberg LP. A political independent, he is barred by law from seeking a fourth term. Quinn, 47, a Manhattan Democrat, is one of seven in her party seeking to replace him next year.
The inspector general’s power will be limited to making policy recommendations to the mayor and police commissioner, while the federal monitor will oversee only the stop, question and frisk tactics, Quinn said. It will cost $2 million a year to implement the bill, according to a council staff report.
Quinn voted against the racial-profiling bill, she said, because such police activity is already against federal law.
Of the other major Democratic mayoral candidates, support for both measures came from Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, a Brooklyn Democrat, and Comptroller John Liu of Queens. Those opposing both include former Comptroller William Thompson and former U.S. Representative Anthony Weiner.
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