By Rich Bockmann
As expected, Mayor Michael Bloomberg took his red pen to a pair of NYPD-reform bills Tuesday, setting up the final showdown in the politically charged debate over legislation to rein in the department’s stop-and-frisk practices.
Since the City Council passed the Community Safety Act June 26, Bloomberg has staunchly opposed it, pledging not only to veto its two measures but also to try to use his political influence to turn the lawmakers who voted in favor of it. He made good on one of those promises Tuesday, calling the measures “dangerous and irresponsible” in letters explaining his vetoes.
The act, drafted amid the outcry over the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk tactics, is comprised of two bills, one that seeks to create an inspector general under the city Department of Investigation to oversee the police department. It passed with a solid 40 votes.
The other, a proposal that would amend the city’s current bias-based profiling law to open a legal avenue for alleged profiling victims to sue the department, passed with 34 votes, the bare minimum needed to overturn a mayoral veto.
The 14 members of the Queens delegation were split evenly on profiling bill, with Council members Liz Crowley (D-Middle Village), James Gennaro (D-Fresh Meadows), Dan Halloran (R-Whitestone), Peter Koo (D-Flushing), Karen Koslowitz (D-Forest Hills), Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park) and Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria) opposing the bill.
Casting votes in favor were Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans), Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights), Julissa Ferreras (D-East Elmhurst), Donovan Richards (D-Laurelton), Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside), Mark Weprin (D-Oakland Gardens) and Ruben Wills (D-Jamaica).
The Council has until Aug. 22 to vote on the override, but could call a special meeting before then.
Earlier this month, the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association distributed fliers targeting what the group called “pro-crime Council members” who supported the bill, including Weprin.
“I think the reason I was picked to go after is because I happen to be Caucasian,” he said. “They said you represent a white district; however, I don’t think they realize my district is only 30 percent white. But this shouldn’t be only about ethnicities. The right thing to do is to create a society that fosters trust between citizens and the law enforcement community protecting them.”
A trio of civic leaders in Weprin’s district who oppose the bills put out a statement urging their councilmen to reconsider his vote.
“The gender, age and racial composition of those being stopped closely reflects NYPD crime statistic data,” Bob Friedrich, president of the Glen Oaks Village co-op, wrote. “That’s neither profiling nor racist. It’s what one would expect from smart and professional policing. Would it make sense for police to stop women 50 percent of the time because they represent 50 percent of the population? Of course not. stop-and-frisk can certainly be debated and, if need be, mend it — not end it. But characterizing it as bias-based profiling — or worse, racial profiling — renders real discussion of the subject toxic.”
Weprin said he and Friedrich see eye-to-eye on more than the civic leader might think.
“We don’t want to end stop-and-frisk, but we don’t want to continue the problems with it,” he said. “This law doesn’t change anything. It just gives teeth to the current law that says you can’t racially profile someone.”
Weprin said he did not think the profiling bill would open the NYPD to a flood of lawsuits as its opponents have claimed, and said if it did he would amend the legislation.
“As much influence as I have in the process, if by some chance I’m wrong, we’ll change the law,” he said.
Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4574.