Two bills that would rein in controversial police tactics took a major step forward in New York City Council on Monday — even as Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly warned that the bills would aid criminals and terrorists.
“Take heart, Al Qaeda wannabes,” Kelly said as he joined Bloomberg to trash the bills before the Council vote.
The bills would create an NYPD inspector general to oversee police activity and allow people to file lawsuits against the city if they believe officers used profiling to make stops or arrests.
Bloomberg said the bills would force cops to spend their time defending lawsuits instead of keeping the city safe.
“What are you going to say at the next eulogy you have to give after these bills are passed when the family is 100% convinced that had you not passed this bill, their child would still be alive?” Bloomberg asked Council members as they prepared to vote. “This is not a game. This is a life-threatening thing.”
Despite the warnings, the Council voted 41 to 8 to allow the bills to bypass a committee. They’ll get a full council vote this week.
Although bills typically need the approval of a committee to reach a full Council vote, supporters of the measures used an obscure procedure called a “motion to discharge” because Public Safety Committee Chairman Peter Vallone (D-Queens) refused to allow a vote by his panel.
It was the first time a “motion to discharge” has been used since Christine Quinn (D-Manhattan) became council speaker in 2006.
The bills had been in limbo until March, when Quinn, under heavy political pressure in her race for mayor, threw her support behind the inspector general measure.
She opposes the racial profiling bill but agreed to let it move forward despite her opposition.
On Monday, she voted to advance both bills, but said she planned to vote against the profiling bill when it goes before the full Council.
The profiling bill would allow New Yorkers to sue if they think they’ve been profiled based on their race, religion, sexual preference or other characteristics. Bloomberg said only lawyers would benefit if the bill passes. “Every tort lawyer is going to buy a new house and a new car right away,” he said.
But supporters of the measures dismissed criticism from Bloomberg and Kelly as lies and fear-mongering from a mayor and police commissioner desperate to protect their legacy.
The supporters noted that cops wouldn’t be barred from using race and other factors in descriptions of suspects, people wouldn’t be able to sue for money and the inspector general would only be able to make recommendations — not force the NYPD to listen.
“Any time you start to discuss better policing, police reform, they say the sky is going to fall, the whole city is going to be in a rampage, all laws will be in default, and everybody will run amok,” said Councilman Jumaane Williams (D-Brooklyn), who sponsored both bills.
“For some reason, [Bloomberg] still believes he’s going to go down as one of the best mayors in history, and he’s worried about anybody who challenges his legacy.”