New York City Council to vote on policing measures, may rebuff Bloomberg

Reuters News
Posted: Jun 26, 2013 4:56 PM
New York City Council to vote on policing measures, may rebuff Bloomberg

By Francesca Trianni

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The New York City Council was expected to vote on Wednesday night on two measures that could eclipse police power, both of which are opposed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has made the fight against crime a centerpiece of his three terms in office.

The measures are aimed at restricting the New York City Police Department's use of "stop-and-frisk," a policy of stopping, questioning and frisking people suspected of wrongdoing. Minority groups, civil libertarians and some Democratic mayoral candidates have argued that police disproportionately target minorities, particularly young black and Hispanic men.

Bloomberg, a political independent whose term expires at the end of this year, has credited more aggressive police tactics with the city's 34 percent decline in crime over a decade.

One of the proposals would create an independent inspector general to monitor the NYPD over a 7-year period and make recommendations on how it could be improved. The other would expand the definition of racial profiling and allow people who believe they have been profiled to sue police in state court.

The power of police and its effect on the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution have become defining issues in New York City's mayoral race. The amendment guards against unreasonable searches and seizures and requires probable cause for warrants.

A primary election has been scheduled for September 10, and the general election is due to take place on November 5, 2013.

Bloomberg and New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly have vigorously defended stop and frisk, arguing that police make the most stops in minority neighborhoods because that is where crime rates are highest.

City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, a Democratic mayoral candidate and Bloomberg ally, has voiced support for an inspector general, but she has not expressed support for the racial profiling proposal. Former Congressman Anthony Weiner, who is also a mayoral hopeful, has expressed general support for stop and frisk.

The measures, sponsored by Brooklyn Democratic Councilmen Jumaane Williams and Brad Lander, have varying degrees of support on the 51-member council.

Supporters of the proposals have said they would improve police public relations and reduce unnecessary stop-and-frisk incidents. Critics have said the measures would handcuff police.

The proposal that would create an independent watchdog was expected to reach a veto-proof majority. Supporters of the racial profiling measure were less certain it had the two-thirds majority necessary to override a possible veto by Bloomberg.

(Reporting by Francesca Trianni; Editing by Daniel Trotta, Toni Reinhold)