Bill Thompson on Wednesday sought to bolster his credibility as a foe of the NYPD's controversial stop-and-frisk tactics while facing down a mayoral race opponent who has accused him of becoming a belated and inconsistent critic.
"Those individuals are grandstanding," the former city comptroller -- appearing alongside 22 black church leaders endorsing him at City Hall -- said of attacks by rivals such as Public Advocate Bill de Blasio. "They're trying to win petty political points."
The battle was sparked by a speech Thompson delivered Sunday at a Brooklyn church calling stop-and-frisk an "institutionalized" version of the alleged profiling of Trayvon Martin, the unarmed Florida teen slain by a neighborhood watch volunteer recently acquitted in his death.
"They're escalating their attacks because of the collapse of [Anthony] Weiner; they're fighting for what looks like No. 2 in a runoff with Chris Quinn, so there's a real political, strategic element in this," said Baruch College public affairs Professor Doug Muzzio.
De Blasio seized on Thompson's opposition to City Council legislation passed in late June that was intended to rein in use of stop-and-frisk, which polls have found unpopular among black New Yorkers. De Blasio's campaign spokesman Dan Levitan on Wednesday sent an email to reporters titled, "Fact: Thompson is playing all angles on police tactics."
Thompson on Wednesday stuck to his position that the legislation was not needed because he would revamp the policy as mayor.
"I believe, as I said, that I don't need legislation to be able to move a police department in a different direction," he said. "If I was mayor, there wouldn't have been a need to have legislation, because you wouldn't have seen the abuse and misuse of stop-and-frisk."
The City Council will soon vote on whether to override Mayor Michael Bloomberg's veto of the bills that would establish an inspector general over the NYPD and make it easier for people to file bias lawsuits against the police.