New York's City Council overrode two of Mayor Bloomberg's vetos on Thursday, paving the way for increased oversight of the NYPD as the three term mayor prepares to leave office. (Bloomberg, along with Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, believes that any limitations on the city's controversial stop-and-frisk program are dangerous.)
As Capital New York points out, the mayor failed to change the mind of a single council member on the more controversial of the two bills, which will make it easier for New York residents to sue the NYPD for profiling and bias. The bill originally passed 34 votes, just enough to overturn a veto, and was re-passed today by the same number. Among the "no" votes? Council speaker Christine C. Quinn, who's currently running to replace Bloomberg as mayor.
The second of the two bills will commission an independent inspector general for the NYPD who will have subpoena power to investigate the department's practices in order to recommend changes. That bill, which passed 39 to 10 today, did get Quinn's vote. Despite her split vote on the issue, Quinn focused on the positives of the politically popular move to increase police oversight in a statement to reporters.
“We’ve seen in this city policies and practices in the Police Department that have gotten out of hand. This is a practice that needs immediate reform. We are getting it done.”
The mayor's statement in response to the overrides was predictably harsh:
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.
This has not been a good fortnight for the mayor's signature and controversial law enforcement program, which overwhelmingly targets innocent African Americans and Hispanics in the city. On August 12, a federal judge found the practice unconstitutional, a decision that the city quickly vowed to appeal. Bloomberg claimed that the judge who declared the practice unconstitutional, Judge Shira A. Scheindlin, wasn't qualified to make decisions on law enforcement matters, while Kelly went on the Sunday talk show circuit to assert that the policy is " integral to policing."