NEW YORK CITY — Mayor Michael Bloomberg and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn locked horns Wednesday over a plan to create a new independent NYPD watchdog, with Bloomberg slamming the plan as a "terrible and tragic and dangerous mistake" and Quinn alleging police practices were making people less safe.
Facing mounting pressure from activists, Quinn, who recently launched a bid for mayor, announced her support Tuesday for legislation that would create an independent NYPD inspector general to oversee the department's policies.
The announcement came after mounting criticism over stop-and-frisk and the reported surveillance of Muslim communities, as well as pressure from her rivals in the race.
But Bloomberg on Wednesday vowed to veto the bill, which he argued would undermine the city's crime-fighting gains, putting it back on a path toward the bad old days of the 80s and 90s.
“Make no mistake about it: This bill jeopardizes that progress and will put the lives of New Yorkers and our police officers at risk," Bloomberg said in remarks at the opening of a new data center in Lower Manhattan.
"We have come too far to forget the lessons we’ve learned," he continued. "And those who taking our record low levels of crime for granted are making a terrible and tragic and dangerous mistake."
He also took a thinly-veiled shot at Quinn: “We cannot afford to play election-year politics with the safety of our city," he said.
It was his most pointed criticism of Quinn in recent memory, and comes as she tries to establish herself as a candidate who will continue to prioritize public safety, while fending off criticism from the left that she is too close to the mayor.
In his statement, Bloomberg argued the department was already monitored by a slew of offices, including five district attorneys, two U.S. attorneys, the Civilian Complaint Review Board, the Commission to Combat Police Corruption, as well as the NYPD's Internal Affairs Bureau — which he argued already functioned like an Inspector General’s office, rooting out bad apples.
The mayor also threatened the legislation would undermine Police Commissioner Ray Kelly's authority as well as his own decision-making power by creating what he said would essentially amount to a policy supervisor.
"There is absolutely no validity to that concern," Quinn told reporters at a press conference at City Hall when asked about Bloomberg's comments.
She also said Bloomberg's fears were misguided, and "guarantee[d]" the council would over-ride any veto from the mayor.
Quinn had previously called for stop-and-frisk reforms, but went farther, saying the controversial practice was actually interfering with keeping the city safe
"We have a situation right now in this city, whether we like it or not, where some of the practices of the police department have caused significant rifts between the police and the community. Those types of rifts make it harder to keep people safe, not easier," she charged.
At a debate on Tuesday night, Quinn also said she was skeptical that there was any correlation between crime figures and the number of stops, which have skyrocked since Bloomberg was elected into office.
"As crime has gone down, stop, question, and frisk — they don't correlate," she said. "The real decrease in crime in the Bloomberg administration happened when stop, question, and frisk was much, much lower," she said, noting that the number of guns found during stops is "statistically insignificant."
She added that, while she intends to continue the practice if she wins the election, "it is not a critical strategy in bringing crime down."
"The data shows it is not a critical component to keeping our city safe," she said.
Quinn also denied that her sudden change of heart on the legislation had anything to do with her bid for mayor, telling reporters the timing was driven by the fact that a deal had been reached.
With Dennis Zhou