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City Council push for police reform receives continuous pushback

New York City Police officers watch over a

New York City Police officers watch over a demonstration against the city's "stop-and-frisk" searches in lower Manhattan near Federal Court on March 18, 2013. Photo Credit: Getty Images

A nine-month effort by a group of City Council members to impose new restrictions on police practices appears stalled in the face of continued opposition from the NYPD and Mayor Bill de Blasio.

But a bill sponsor said a new police plan to issue "receipts" during each stop-and-frisk to explain the reason for the encounter shows that NYPD Commissioner William Bratton recognizes the need for at least some elements in the council's proposals.

Beginning Sept. 21, police officers will issue forms to individuals with the reason for the stop-and-frisk and information on where to file complaints. The receipts also have a space for cops to identify themselves.

"Here you have the commissioner himself piloting a program that validates the logic of the Right to Know Act without supporting the legislation itself," Councilman Ritchie Torres (D-Bronx) said.

The act comprises bills requiring cops to identify themselves with business cards in civilian interactions and to give notice and obtain proof of a stopped person's consent to search.

Torres and other council members introduced the legislation in November. He said last week that he doesn't expect a vote to be called this fall, calling the NYPD opposition "formidable."

An NYPD spokesman said the department opposes the Right to Know Act as "unprecedented intrusions into the operational management of the police department." Bratton at a June 29 council hearing on nine police-oversight bills, including the act, criticized them as "an overreaching solution in search of a problem."

There is no justification for the legislation, the rank-and-file officers' union said.

"The negative anti-police message that the City Council consistently sends is a disincentive to proactive policing," Patrolmen's Benevolent Association president Patrick Lynch said in a statement.

De Blasio has also voiced opposition to the measures and his office said he would veto a bill to outlaw chokeholds -- permitted under city law -- such as the one apparently used in Staten Islander Eric Garner's death last year. His office last week pointed to statements he's made previously, including an April comment that a chokehold "might be an acceptable option" in some situations. "We need the officer to do anything and everything to protect themselves," de Blasio said. The NYPD banned chokeholds in 1993.

The ID bill has 29 co-sponsors, the consent-to-search bill has 24, and the chokehold bill has 28. Bills must have 34 votes to be veto-proof.

"I'm open to the mayor's constructive suggestions about how the bill might be changed to earn his support, but he's got to come forward with something other than just 'no,' " said Councilman Rory Lancman (D-Queens), sponsor of the chokehold bill.

"Ultimately, the mayor's office is going to defer to the NYPD," Torres said.

Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito has taken no position on the three bills, but her spokesman said she is in continual discussions with the NYPD over her separate proposal to decriminalize low-level offenses such as public urination. A police spokesman said Bratton does not support her effort.

Monifa Bandele of the Communities United for Police Reform said she believes there has been a "shift" by de Blasio, who campaigned to end police abuses, since a grand jury declined in December to indict the officer involved in Garner's killing and cops literally turned their backs on the mayor after comments he made that they regarded as unsupportive of them.

"We were on the right track for months," she said, "and now we've got nothing."


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