NYC Council Angers Mayor Bloomberg By Passing Two Bills Aimed At Curtailing The NYPD's 'Stop And Frisk' Program
from the a-despot-and-his-enforcers dept
It appears the New York City council would like to see some changes in the NYPD. Two bills were passed recently (known together as the “Community Safety Act”) that have put Mayor Bloomberg and Chief of Police Ray Kelly on the defensive.
The first seeks to install independent oversight of the NYPD, something the Dept. of Justice itself recommends. (The DOJ’s recommendation is contingent on a judicial decision finding the department’s “Stop and Frisk” program unconstitutional.) This, of course, has enraged Mayor Bloomberg, who’s definitely not interested in anyone policing his “personal army.” (Just in case anyone feels the previous sentence is hyperbolic, here’s the mayor’s quote, which he delivered during a speech at MIT in 2011.)
“I have my own army in the NYPD, which is the seventh biggest army in the world. I have my own State Department, much to Foggy Bottom’s annoyance. We have the United Nations in New York, and so we have an entree into the diplomatic world that Washington does not have,” Mayor Bloomberg said.
Bloomberg’s reaction to the DOJ’s recommendation echoed his previous audacious statement.
The U.S. Department of Justice filed papers Wednesday saying that if a federal judge ruled the NYPD’s practices unconstitutional, then the DOJ would strongly endorse the use of a monitor to oversee changes at the department.
The mayor, however, said that the police department needs a clear line of authority. “No military organization or paramilitary runs where you have confusion in the command structure. You just cannot have that. Lives are on the line,” he said in a question-and-answer session with reporters.
Part of the NYPD’s problem is Mayor Bloomberg himself. The fact that he regards the police department as both “his” and a “military organization” is indicative of his mindset. Bloomberg wants a military force policing his city and has done everything in his power to bring his own brand of martial law to NYC. For its own good, of course.
With this bill passing with enough votes to override his veto, Bloomberg has gone on the attack (along with Chief Kelly), throwing around statements that give the impression New York City is only a single militarized policeman away from a crippling crimewave. The balance is apparently so delicate that any change will destroy the balance and put millions of New Yorker’s in jeopardy.
In separate appearances, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and his police commissioner, Raymond W. Kelly, sought to portray the bills — one aimed at increasing oversight of the Police Department and the other at expanding the ability to sue over racial profiling by officers — as a divisive tool that would undermine the police’s efforts to get guns off the streets and continue to lower the murder rate.
The problem is neither of these statements are true. Stop and frisk doesn’t get guns off the street or lower the murder rate. The NYCLU’s report on stop and frisk showed the total number of weapons recovered in 2012 increased by a total of 96 guns compared with 2003 (pre-stop and frisk), an increase of 0.02%. And as the NYCLU’s Donna Lieberman pointed out, homicide numbers were dropping before the stop and frisk program was introduced and homicide rates have decreased more dramatically in other large cities.
The first threat to Bloomberg’s “personal army” doesn’t take effect until Jan. 1st, 2014, meaning this decision would be passed on to the next mayor of New York City. Bloomberg can veto this bill (and will) but it has the support needed to override his veto (it passed 40-11; the override threshold is 34 votes).
The second bill takes aim at the “racial profiling” aspects of the stop and frisk program. As has been noted, 87% of those stopped and frisked over the last decade have been black or Latino. This percentage would be enough to indicate profiling, but even more damning evidence came to light during the still-ongoing lawsuit. A secret recording caught a commanding officer stating explicitly the targets of stop and frisk: “I told you at roll call, and I have no problem telling you this, male blacks 14 to 20, 21.”
By expanding the definition of “profiling” to include “age, gender, housing status and sexual orientation” and allowing individuals to sue police in state court for “policies that disproportionately affect people in any protected categories without serving a significant law enforcement goal,” the city council hopes to make the first moves towards killing off the stop and frisk program.
As was stated earlier, Bloomberg feels this sort of “interference” would be “harmful” to his “military.” His efforts to kill this legislation will include attempts to “turn” a councilperson in order to eliminate the 34th vote needed to override his veto. Even in this, the Mayor took the time to evoke the “victims” of independent oversight and additional NYPD culpability.
He declined to say how he might persuade one council member to switch positions, saying only: “This is a fight to defend your life and your kids’ lives. You can rest assured that I will not give up for one minute.”
If the NYPD resists these reforms as much as their “personal leader” does, it could actually mean a jump in crime numbers. The NYPD may decide to simply do less enforcement or deterrence in order to prove that the meddling bills did indeed “undermine police efforts.” And it wouldn’t take much to persuade many of these cops to “do less.” Like many personal armies, the NYPD is home to plenty of low-level corruption and laziness.
Ten percent of them were malcontents who worked as little as possible. Unless they are being paid overtime, officers seem to avoid writing summonses. Indeed, some police officers need to be weaned of the idea that they are paid to drive around in their patrol cars, eating doughnuts.
And those sentiments came not from critics of the department, but from police commanders and city lawyers.
If the perfect storm comes together, the NYPD could be facing independent oversight and a major disruption in the “stop and frisk” process, if not an actual judicial decision declaring the whole thing unconstitutional. Judging from what we’ve seen so far, we can expect future reactions from Bloomberg and the NYPD to range from “ugly” to “uglier.”