4:25 pm Oct. 9, 2012
The New York Police Department will not be attending or providing testimony tomorrow when the City Council holds its first hearing on four bills that could dramatically alter the police guidelines for stopping suspected criminals. The mayor's office, which strongly objects to the bills, will send a lawyer to argue the bills are unconstitutional, steering clear of the debate about the substance of the legislation.
"Testimony will be on various legal issues with the bills," Bloomberg spokesman Marc LaVorgna confirmed via email.
City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who is widely expected to run for mayor and who supports reducing the number of stop-and-frisks conducted by the NYPD, will give opening remarks at the hearing.
Public Safety Chairman Peter Vallone Jr., a law-and-order Democrat from Astoria, said Intro 800, which would preclude using any information about a person's race in order to identify a possible suspect, would render the police force inoperable.
"If you want to turn [the city] over to the gangs, then pass this bill," he said.
The other three bills that will be discussed tomorrow "are worthy of consideration … especially the inspector general one," said Vallone, who has not taken a position on any of them yet.
The bill redefining racial profiling has more than enough signatures to pass the 51-member Council. But what the Bloomberg administration is expected to argue is that the bills— regardless of their merit—are not constitutional under the City charter, which bars the Council from setting policy for mayoral agencies.
"I kind of wish they would have taken the opportunity to show how harmful [this bill] would be," said Vallone, who has called it the most dangerous bill in the history of the City Council.
The bill to establish the office of Inspector General for the NYPD "most likely is going to be banned by City Charter," said Vallone. "We tried something similar in the 1990s," he said, referring to a period when his father, Peter Vallone, Sr., was the Council Speaker. The effort, recalled the younger Vallone, was "shot down by the courts."
The sponsor of that bill, City Councilman Brad Lander, disagreed.
"I haven't heard any argument that establishing the inspector general office is not allowed," Lander said in a brief telephone interview. "I would be very surprised if they made the argument ... We clearly have the power."
"There's a whole provision in the [city] charter for an inspector general," he added.
When I asked what he hoped to hear from the administration tomorrow, he said he hoped it would be "somewhat more relevant than what the mayor said yesterday," referring to Bloomberg's argument that creating an I.G.'s office would handcuff the police and embolden criminals.
Another bill would require police officers to inform people why they are being stopped, something Vallone said is already required, but admittedly not always practiced. And the fourth bill being considered would require police officers to hand out their business cards to people they do stop, theoretically establishing a greater level of accountability.
A spokesman for NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly, who has taken a combative toward his critics in the Council, did not immediately return an email seeking comment about the hearing, which will take place at 10 a.m. at City Hall
Councilman Jumaane Williams, a sponsor of the bill to redefine profiling and an outspoken critic of stop-and-frisk tactics, said, "It is frustrating that you can't have a conversation about how to solve this problem."
The administration, he said, is "just throwing tantrums."
UPDATE: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated the location of the City Council hearing. Thanks to Epoch Times reporter Zack Stieber for pointing it out.