NYPD watchdog and profiling bills win veto-proof majority after 2 a.m.

Councilmembers Jumaane WIlliams and Brad Lander before a press conference on the two bills. Credit: William Alatriste
Councilmembers Jumaane WIlliams and Brad Lander before a press conference on the two bills. Credit: William Alatriste

In a late-night session that stretched well into the small hours of Thursday morning, the City Council approved two controversial bills mandating an inspector general to oversee the NYPD and a stringent ban on bias-based profiling. Both passed with a veto-proof majority: the IG bill comfortably at 40-11; the anti-profiling less so at 34-17.

The IG bill found its veto-proof majority long before the anti-profiling bill did. Around 2:20 a.m., Councilman Brad Lander announced via Twitter that Councilman Ruben Wills was the necessary 34th vote on the profiling bill to raucous applause.

“That is probably the only benefit to having a last name that begins with W,” Wills said.

In a nod to the many councilmembers who had to disclose earmarking money to organizations and schools with which they or their families are affiliated, Wills joked that he owns stock in the company that sells seersucker, poking fun at Councilman Jumaane Williams’ outfit.

That was perhaps the only joke made in Williams’ direction, as nearly all councilmembers, including those who disagreed with his passionate support of the two bills he co-sponsored, expressed awe and respect for the emotional statement he gave prior to the vote.

“If you have never been black, Muslim or Asian in the city of New York, please listen to us,” he pleaded.

It was not, however, the only joke about disclosures: Councilmember David Greenfield poked fun at Councilmember Lew Fidler, who disclosed funding for New York University because one of his sons attends the school.

Greenfield accused Fidler of disclosing for the sole purpose of bragging.

“Congratulations on having smart children,” he teased.

Despite jokes of the long session stretching past many councilmembers’ “bedtimes,” most took the time to explain their votes and thank their colleagues, particularly Finance Chairman Domenic Recchia and Speaker Christine Quinn.

Even Staten Island Councilman Jimmy Oddo, extremely opposed to the two bills, tipped his hat to his friend Christine Quinn, saying the past 15 years have been “one heck of a ride.”

City Councilmember Joel Rivera also praised Quinn’s “tremendous amount of leadership under fire” in a city with “a very strong mayor.”

Rivera was the only councilmember of color to vote against the profiling bill.

Councilmembers seem to loosen up quite a bit as the early morning hours neared: Oddo, generally outspoken, referenced his fiancée, several years his junior, who is apparently regularly disappointed in the early hour at which he retires nightly.

Though she voted against the profiling bill and for the inspector general bill, Quinn insisted she does “not share concerns that [the profiling bill] will make the city less safe.”

And the inspector general bill, she said, will only make it safer.

She expressed concern, however, that with a federal case pending against the NYPD, involving state courts in NYPD business could be dicey.

The case is over the NYPD’s Muslim surveillance program.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg released a statement almost immediately. He noted the record lows in murders and shootings, and said this year is on track to break those records.

“Unfortunately, these dangerous pieces of legislation will only hurt our police officers’ ability to protect New Yorkers and sustain this tremendous record of accomplishment,” he said.

He vowed to veto the bills “and continue to make our case to councilmembers over the coming days and weeks.”

However, the City Council ultimately has the power to override his veto, so unless there is a last-minute change of heart by supporting councilmembers after Bloomberg’s vetoes, the NYPD will be getting an inspector general. It remains to be seen what effect, if any, the anti-profiling bill will have, though Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly have both argued that it will prompt an excess of undue lawsuits, tying up cops in court when they should be out on the streets.

Follow Danielle Tcholakian on Twitter @danielleiat


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