New York City

NYC Council passes landmark police reform bill

June 27, 2013 By Charisma L. Miller, Esq. Brooklyn Daily Eagle
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In the late-evening hours on Wednesday, the New York City Council voted to pass the Community Safety Act (CSA), a set of legislation that establishes an inspector general to oversee the New York Police Department’s practices and policies and establishes an enforceable ban on bias-based profiling within the NYPD.  

The CSA also provides a means for persons, who believe they have been unjustly profiled by the NYPD, to bring legal action.

“For years, New Yorkers have called for respectful policing and safer streets — and tonight, we won,” Council Members Jumaane D. Williams (D-Brooklyn), co-vice chair of the council’s Black, Latino and Asian Caucus; and Brad Lander (D-Brooklyn), co-chair of the council’s Progressive Caucus, said in a statement.  “It is a truly historic victory for civil rights and public safety.”

The CSA has been a contentious form of legislation from its inception.  NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg viewed the bills as placing a burden on the operations of the NYPD. “What we must not have is what these laws would create, a police department pointlessly hampered by outside intrusions and recklessly threatened by second-guessing from the court,” Bloomberg said at a Police Headquarters news conference.

“With independent oversight and an enforceable ban on police profiling, New Yorkers can finally be confident that the NYPD officers will be empowered to ‘serve and protect’ all our neighbors,” the bills’ sponsors said in a statement disagreeing with Bloomberg’s assertion of oversight provisions.

Bloomberg and NYPD Commissioner Raymond Kelly mocked the addition of a private course of action available to persons who feel they suffered discrimination as a result of unjust profiling by the NYPD.  Kelly said the bill should be called “the full employment for plaintiffs’ attorneys act” because of the many “frivolous lawsuits” Kelly believes will now be filed against the NYPD.

“The lawsuits the bill would allow against the tactics of Commissioner Kelly wouldn’t just cause a possible financial burden, and tie up officers in court and take them off the streets. The state courts would also ban all the police tactics he [Kelly] ordered,” Bloomberg said.

Intro 1080 is the portion of the CSA that bans discriminatory profiling by prohibiting bias-based profiling. While the NYPD has repeatedly stated that it does not utilize bias-based profiling in the exercise of its functions, the recent trial, Floyd v. City of New York, against the city and NYPD for its supposed use of racial profiling in its stop-and-frisk policy brings that very issue into question. Intro 1080 further expands the prohibition of bias-based profiling to cover age, gender, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, immigration status, disability and housing status.  This section of the bill was passed by a vote of 34-17.

Intro 1079, which passed with a vote of 40-11, establishes an inspector within the Department of Investigation to investigate, review, study, audit and make recommendations about the operations, polices, programs and practices of the NYPD. The bill does grant the mayor some, though not absolute, discretion to delineate certain information too sensitive in nature to be reviewed by the inspector.

“As a 19-year-old African-American resident of Bedford-Stuyvesant who has been stopped and frisked a dozen times over the last four years, I am thrilled that the New York City Council passed two critical pieces of the Community Safety Act today, Intros 1079 and 1080,” said Damont Dillard, a youth member of Make the Road New York, a non-profit organization committed to assisting immigrant and working-class populations within NYC.  

“This is a historic step toward bringing real accountability to the NYPD and an end to discriminatory policing,” he said.

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