Bypassing opposition, police reform bills will be forced to a vote
In an unusual move, two city councilmen plan to force a vote on two controversial police reform bills that another council member vehemently opposes and had sought to block.
Councilmen Jumaane Williams and Brad Lander will file discharge petitions on Wednesday to force the council to vote on the Community Safety Act, which consists of two bills: one that would create an independent inspector general tasked with monitoring the NYPD and another anti-racial profiling bill that would allow people to sue police officers in state court.
Councilman Peter Vallone chairs the Council’s Public Safety Committee, which had given him the authority to block the vote. He argued that the second bill, which would expand an existing racial profiling ban to cover things like housing status and immigration status, would lead to more unsafe streets.
The ban, he said, “enables lawsuits which would: number one, blow a hole in the city’s budget which exists to defend these lawsuits; number two, police would be pulled off the streets to defend these lawsuits; number three, any judge who finds the police department guilty of ‘disparate impact’ can issue sanctions—a judge can refuse to let them hire new people, do stop and frisk, DWI roadblocks, etc. We cannot take control away from the Police Commissioner and give it to judges.”
Speaker Christine Quinn has likewise made it clear that she did not support the expansion of the profiling ban, but she helped negotiate the Inspector General Monitoring bill and is backing Williams’ and Lander’s plan to force a vote. This marks the first time she will allow a vote on a bill she opposes.
“I believe that we can — that we must — have both safe streets and stronger police-community relations,” Quinn said. “An IG will provide feedback and recommendations to our commissioner and mayor on how to balance these two goals and ensure one doesn’t impede on the other.”
Danielle Tcholakian contributed reporting. Follow Emily Johnson on Twitter @emilyjreports