De Blasio praises a Quinn-brokered agreement on police oversight, but says it needs to go farther

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Bill De Blasio. (Dan Rosenblum)
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Public Advocate Bill de Blasio said he was “heartened” by yesterday’s agreement between the Bloomberg administration and Council Speaker Christine Quinn to give the agency charged with reviewing police complaints more teeth, but said more needed to done to ensure its financial independence.

Quinn has demanded more oversight of the NYPD but has generally been less critical of the department than her likely 2013 mayoral rivals, including de Blasio. She has indicated that she'd try to retain Ray Kelly as commissioner. 

“Yesterday’s announcement was an important first step, but it is just half of the solution,” de Blasio said this morning to a room of 40 people at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, on the subject of the Civilan Complaint Review Board. “Over the years, Mayor Bloomberg has unwisely proposed, and the City Council has agreed, to slash the CCRB budget.”

Increasing the CCRB's capacity to investigate allegations of police misconduct was a core issue of de Blasio’s 2009 run for public advocate and the following year, he introduced a bill with Manhattan councilman Dan Garodnick to give it an independent budget. 

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But if yesterday’s agreement between Quinn-led City Council and the Bloomberg administration pulled the rug out from the public advocate's speech today, he didn't acknowledge it, saying the Council should still pass his bill to ensure the agency's financial independence.

“Absent this important action, the reforms announced yesterday can not succeed,” he said.

De Blasio, using numbers recently provided by CCRB chair Daniel Chu, said next year’s budget would be 20 percent lower, and down nearly 50 employees than from its peak in 2008. As a frequent critic of the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk policy, de Blasio also criticized the way it's currently applied. He said it was a useful tool in the NYPD's arsenal, but was too heavily targeted toward black and Latino New Yorkers, who account for 87 percent of police stops.

“The frequency with which we use this policing tool can be turned on a dime," de Blasio said, addressing his words to the mayor. "It is a matter of policy. It could be altered by a directive from you. I call for you to step in right now and reverse our course and commit to substantially lowering the number of unwarranted stop and frisks.”

De Blasio also credited Ray Kelly’s counterterrorism efforts, which have been the subject of an extensive, often-critical series of reports from the Associated Press. But he cited the Ronald Reagan adage to "trust, but verify," and encouraged the police to reach out more to the city’s Muslim community.

“Accordingly, I defend without question the NYPD’s obligation to pursue specific and credible threats. And yet, I think all New Yorkers need assurances that the police know when to put the brakes on and when to say no.”

Afterward, de Blasio expanded on why the CCRB needs more independent budgeting.

“It’s disheartening that it took so long, it’s heartening that it’s finally happened on the prosecutorial power," de Blasio said. "That’s not enough. If you don’t have an independent budget, it makes a mockery of the concept of the prosecutorial power. You not only need to give the CCRB the resources needed to have to sustain them. Let’s face it, the example of Rudy Giuliani is a good one. He didn’t like the CCRB, he disempowered it in every way he could and there was no law to stop him from doing it.”

De Blasio said he would begin to reach out over the next couple of days, including with the council’s Public Safety chairman, Peter Vallone Jr., to move his 2010 bill forward.

Ihe the audience were de Blasio aide Kirsten John Foy, whose arrest along with City Councilman Jumaane Williams at last year’s West Indian Day Parade led to sharp criticism of the department, crime-prevention expert and John Jay professor David Kennedy and de Blasio’s wife, Chirlane.

Also in attendance was Sarasota, Fla. police chief Mikel Hollaway, who was on a visit with Kennedy, he said, to “look, listen and learn.”

Hollaway said there were similarities between police work in New York and Florida.

“Policing is fluid and you have to constantly monitor your actions to see kind of results you’re getting,” he said. “As we were talking just a few minutes ago, sometimes you have to put your foot on that accelerator to deal with crime, but also when you have accomplished your goals, sometimes you have to go back.”