Council vote on NYPD oversight delayed
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The City Council was poised to pass a controversial set of measures late Wednesday that would create an inspector general for the NYPD and enhance the right to sue the police over allegations of profiling.
Known as part of the Community Safety Act, the proposals were formulated against a backdrop of anger over the NYPD's stop-and-frisk tactics and surveillance of the Muslim community.
The measures were scheduled for a vote in the overwhelmingly Democratic council beginning at 9 last night and were expected by city officials to pass by a wide margin. However, there was a delay in a vote on the recent city budget deal, which stalled voting on the police measures.
Stop-and-frisk has been a hotly debated issue in the mayor's race, with Democrats calling for varying degrees of reform. Comptroller John Liu is the only candidate to push for a ban. City Council Speaker Christine Quinn last week put more distance between herself and Mayor Michael Bloomberg, saying she would fire Ray Kelly as NYPD commissioner if he didn't lower stop-and-frisk rates and keep the practice constitutional. The Republican mayoral contenders have largely defended the practice as keeping crime down.
Proponents of the policing measures argue that an inspector general, who would oversee practices and policies of the NYPD to see how they impact civil liberties, would assist the mayor's office in maintaining oversight over the police department. They point to similar offices in the FBI and other police departments as precedent for the practice.
The measure against "bias-based profiling" would bar police from profiling, which is defined as occurring when an officer takes enforcement action based predominantly on a person's age, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation or housing status. A person who believes he or she was the object of profiling would be able to sue the officer and the city, as well as win attorney fees.
"New Yorkers know that we can keep our city safe from crime and terrorism without profiling our neighbors based on their race, religion, sexual orientation, or immigrant status," council member Brad Lander (D-Brooklyn), one of the sponsors of the measures, said in statement.
But Bloomberg, Kelly and numerous law enforcement officials, as well as police unions, are strongly opposed to the bills they say will hobble the NYPD's crime-fighting efforts, saddle police with numerous lawsuits and ruin years of steadily decreasing crime rates in the city.
"It is the worst bill in the modern history of New York City," said Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria), chairman of the council's public safety committee, before the vote. "It will turn over control of the NYPD to the courts."
Bloomberg has promised to veto the measures. To override Bloomberg's veto, proponents of the bills would have to have the support of two-thirds of the 51-member council, or 34 votes.
With Emily Ngo