Weprin explains why he voted for stop-frisk bills

The following letter is a TimesLedger Newspapers exclusive:

There has recently been a great deal of heated discussion about the two bills that comprise the Community Safety Act — Intros 1079 and 1080 — which the City Council passed in late June. New Yorkers have been receiving some false information on these bills, so the time has come to calm down and look at the facts.

Intro 1080 does not prevent police officers from using stop-and-frisk. Police profiling based on race and other categories is already unlawful, based on a 2004 bill signed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Yet under both current law and Intro 1080, police officers can include race, gender, age and other relevant information when pursuing criminal suspects.

While Intro 1080 does not eliminate or alter stop-and-frisk, it does address bias-based profiling. This has become an epidemic over the past decade, all because of Bloomberg’s insistence that officers conduct an increasing number of quota-driven stops.

Every day I hear unsettling stories of law-abiding residents being stopped on the street in their own neighborhoods for no reason. Stops increased by a jarring 700 percent from 2002-11 without a corresponding drop in gun violence. Intro 1080 will not prevent police officers from stopping people, but it does reiterate that officers must have a law enforcement basis for a stop.

It has been suggested that Intro 1080 opens the door to frivolous lawsuits, but when other states enacted similar laws, the number of lawsuits did not increase. Additionally, plaintiffs in New York City cannot seek monetary damages under the bill, nor can they sue individual officers.

Instead, if policies are discriminatory or ineffective, individuals can sue to have those policies changed. By prompting the abandonment of wasteful practices, Intro 1080 will actually save the city millions of dollars.

Finally, Intro 1079 simply allows the city Department of Investigation to have oversight of the New York Police Department. Almost all city agencies have inspectors general, as do federal departments like the Central Intelligence Agency and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Those agencies are not held back by inspectors general, and the NYPD will not be either.

I have enormous respect for the work of the NYPD, and I would never vote for a law that would put New Yorkers in harm’s way or allow crime levels to increase. I supported these bills because I believe they will make our city safer for all residents.

Mark Weprin

City Councilman

(D-Oakland Gardens)