In rebuff to Bloomberg, New York City Council curbs police power

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg exits after a speech to the Real Estate Board of New York in New York, May 30, 2013. REUTERS/Brendan McDermidReuters – by Francesca Trianni

The New York City Council passed two measures to restrain police powers early on Thursday in direct defiance of Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has defended procedures such as “stop and frisk” as necessary to fight crime.

One creates an independent inspector general to monitor the New York Police Department (NYPD) over a seven-year period and make recommendations on how it could be improved. The other expands the definition of racial profiling and allows people who believe they have been profiled to sue police in state court.  

Both were 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.

“I want to speak from my heart. I implore you, if you’ve never been a young black or Latino, male or female, in New York City, to please listen to us,” said Jumaane Williams, a council member from Brooklyn who sponsored the bill.

Shortly after the vote, Bloomberg, who has made the fight against crime a centerpiece of his three terms in office, promised to veto both bills, forcing the council to hold another vote to override his veto.

Each passed the 51-member council with at least 34 votes, indicating both measures now have the two-thirds majority support to override a mayoral veto.

The inspector general bill passed 40-11 and the racial profiling bill 34-17. A crowd of more than 100 people burst into cheers when the 34th vote was counted after 2 a.m. (0600 GMT).

The vote came after the Washington Post reported that four Central Intelligence Agency officers were embedded with the NYPD in the decade after September 11, 2001, including one who helped conduct surveillance operations inside the United States.

The CIA inspector general found the collaboration was replete with “irregular personnel practice” and lacked adequate control by agency supervisors, the Post reported, citing an inspector general report it acquired from a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit.

“We’re proud of our relationship with CIA and its training expertise,” police spokesman Paul Browne said in response to the report, giving the program credit for helping New York avoid any new attacks since 2001.

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 set for November 5.

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, broke with the mayor and supported the inspector general, though she voted against the bill on racial profiling.

Former Congressman Anthony Weiner, a front-runner in the race for mayor along with Quinn, has expressed general support for stop and frisk.

(Additional reporting by Mark Hosenball; Editing by Daniel Trotta and Elizabeth Piper)

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