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Emotions high at City Council stop and frisk hearing

In an undated photo, New York City Councilwoman

In an undated photo, New York City Councilwoman Helen D. Foster. Photo Credit: handout

Fireworks erupted Wednesday between City Council members in front of a cheering crowd of police critics as elected officials weighed in on reforming the NYPD's "stop and frisk" practice.

Councilwoman Helen Foster chastised Councilman Peter Vallone, who chairs the Public Safety Committee, after he told her and other council members not to give "long speeches" during a committee hearing about the community's issues with the controversial practice.

"I don't work for you. I am not one of your boys. You will not talk to me like that," said Foster (D-Bronx), as dozens of stop and frisk opponents packing City Hall applauded.

Earlier, Vallone (D-Astoria) criticized four proposed bills before the council that would require officers to tell people why they were stopped and prevent officers from doing the frisks based on race. One bill would also create an inspector general for the NYPD.

Critics say stop and frisk is a form of racial profiling since the majority of the 686,000 people stopped last year were minorities who were not charged with a crime.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, neither of whom appeared at Wednesday's hearing, have defended the department's practices as an important crime-prevention tool and rejected the proposed changes.

Michael Best, the counselor to the mayor, testified that city police already are subject to oversight by state and federal laws, as well as the NYPD's Internal Affairs Bureau. The bureau "is far larger than any of the city's inspectors general, with a staff of about 700," he said.

Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who hasn't officially supported the bills, questioned Best's reasoning for his opposition. She noted the mayor signed legislation in 2004 that banned police from racial profiling. "How could the mayor have signed that and not this?" she asked.

The bills have enough co-sponsors to pass the council, but it's unclear if they will get the two-thirds majority needed to override an expected veto by the mayor.

Vallone said there is no timetable for when the bills will be brought for a vote.On Wednesday, the city was dealt a legal blow when its appeal of a judge's decision approving a class-action lawsuit against the NYPD was rejected. The suit was filed by four black men who say they were stopped because they were racially profiled.

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