NEW YORK—The murder rate has never been lower in New York City, and Mayor Michael Bloomberg says this is thanks to the ability of the NYPD to search individuals and keep guns off the streets. Bloomberg warned, however, that this ability is under threat by two bills that will be voted on in City Council this week.
The bills in question are part of the Community Safety Act. The first will allow people to sue police officers if they believe they are being discriminated against in a stop and frisk. The second will create an inspector general for the NYPD.
Both bills are in the process of being pushed to a vote in the City Council after Speaker Christine Quinn said she would bypass the council’s Public Safety Committee on June 10 with a discharge motion—an unprecedented move for council.
Bloomberg was joined by individuals representing the full spectrum of law enforcement in New York City at a press conference at One Police Plaza on June 24 to urge the City Council to vote against the bills. Included were Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, the district attorneys of Richmond, Queens, and New York counties, and the heads of five police benevolent associations representing more than 35,000 NYPD officers.
“The city council must reject two proposed local laws,” Bloomberg said. His concern is that the two bills would make police unable to do their jobs.
“New Yorkers must have policing that respects everyone’s rights–including everyone’s right to be safe on the streets,” Bloomberg said. “What we mustn’t have is what these laws would create: A police department pointlessly hampered by outside intrusion, and recklessly threatened by second-guessing from the courts.”
The key argument against the bills is that police would be reluctant to carry out stop and frisks if they were afraid of being sued. The bills would allow discrimination cases to be brought up over issues of race, gender, age, housing status, and others, according to Bloomberg. It would also make it so police would need to prove their innocence, rather than have the burden of proof on the person making the accusations, said Detectives Endowment Association President Michael Palladino.
Bloomberg said stop and frisk has been effective. He noted that New York City has enjoyed a 34 percent decrease in crime since 2001—a historic low. He also noted that police in the city fire their weapons less than police in most other major cities, and that the incarceration rate is also down 31 percent since 2001. He called it “decline that has bucked a contrary national trend.”
Bloomberg used a real-world example of how the bills would affect the NYPD’s ability to do its job, noting the NYPD’s response to shootings on the weekend of June 1 when police were deployed to troubled public housing complexes.
“There was no controversy about these measures and no protests,” Bloomberg said. “And that’s because they were what anyone would want and expect in addressing a spike in crime. For example, Commissioner Kelly ordered ‘assignment of additional uniformed officers to public housing developments citywide.’”
Since the shootings had occurred in public housing complexes, that is where police were deployed, Bloomberg said. Nevertheless, under Introductory 1080, the NYPD could be sued for implementing this tactic due to a potential “disparate impact” based on housing status.
Under the new bill, police could have been sued because of the race of people in the community, and for searching people within the common age and gender of gang members—males under 30 years old, suggested Bloomberg.
Kelly said, “When you examine the track record for crime fighting in the Bloomberg administration, the numbers speak for themselves.”
He added that if a bill is passed that makes police liable for being sued if they do their jobs, “they will simply walk away.”
“We stand together today to oppose this misguided legislation,” said Kelly.