Council overrides Michael Bloomberg on police oversight, with a Quinn-de Blasio subplot
This afternoon, the City Council passed into law two bills designed to rein in the NYPD's use of stop-and-frisk, overriding two mayoral vetoes and defeating the concerted lobbying efforts of the Bloomberg administration.
With 34 votes, the 51-member Council re-approved a bill (the more controversial of the two) that will broaden the means by which New Yorkers can sue the deparmtent for biased policing.
The bill originally passed with the same number of votes, the minimum needed to override a veto. The mayor lobbied to turn at least one vote in his favor and thereby sustain his veto, but failed to change anyone's mind.
The Council voted to override the mayor's veto of the second, less controversial bill by 39 to 10 (Councilmen Dan Halloran and Peter Vallone are away). It will create an NYPD inspector general with subpoena power.
"It's just plain good government," said Councilman Brad Lander, one of the bill's sponsors.
Councilman Eric Ulrich, a Republican from Queens who opposed the bills, said that oversight is the responsibility of the Council and the inspector general bill "will lower...the morale of the police department."
"Imagine the morale of all our young men that have been traumatized just by going to the store to get bread for their mother and they get stopped, thrown on the ground, cussed like they don't belong to nobody," said Councilwoman Darlene Mealy, arguing for the override.
The battle over policing and its impact on minority communities continues to factor prominently in this year's campaign for mayor.
Bill de Blasio has cited the issue as a prime area of distinction between him and the other Democrats, claiming that his chief rivals each fall short by one measure or another in their opposition to stop-and-frisk.
Quinn supported the inspector general bill but not the bill facilitating lawsuits against the department for allegations of bias, because she's worried about excessive court oversight of the NYPD. She has also said she'd like to keep Ray Kelly on as police commissioner, but recently added the stipulation that he would only be able to remain on the job if he tamped down on use of stop-and-frisk.
Bill Thompson opposes both bills but would not reappoint Kelly.
Quinn, meanwhile, said today that de Blasio's opposition to stop-and-frisk contains its own inconsistencies.
"Who are the two people he has said he would consider to be his police commissioner?" she asked. "One, Chief Phil Banks, Ray Kelly's top right-hand person, his number two, a man who came to this chamber and testified against all of the legislation we will vote on today. How can you criticize me for considering Ray Kelly when you're willing to consider his number two person? Second, the other person that Bill de Blasio has said he would consider for police commissioner: Bill Bratton. Bill Bratton is known across this country as the architect of stop-and-frisk."
"I think the bottom line here is that Speaker Quinn is about to vote against a racial profiling bill, so let's talk about hypocrisy," said de Blasio, when asked about her criticism this morning. "You can't be in favor of fairness in policing and vote against a ban on racial profiling. You can't be in favor of changing and ending the stop and frisk era, and keep its architect Ray Kelly as police commissioner. So that's about all the hypocrisy you can possibly handle. But I've never said who should be police commissioner. I've only said some people should be interviewed."
After the votes to override, the mayor released the following statement: "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. Make no mistake: the communities that will feel the most negative impacts of these bills will be minority communities across our city, which have been the greatest beneficiaries of New York City’s historic crime reductions. Both bills outsource management of the NYPD to unaccountable officials, making it harder for the next mayor and police commissioner to make the decisions they believe necessary to keep our city safe. Today’s vote is an example of election year politics at its very worst and political pandering at its most deadly. The fact is our Administration has zero tolerance for racial profiling – that’s why I signed a racial profiling ban into law in 2004. Intro. 1080 is not aimed at stopping racial profiling, which is already against the law. It is aimed at winning votes. It is a dangerous piece of legislation and we will ask the courts to step in before innocent people are harmed.”