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City Expected to Slam Proposed Changes to 'Stop-and-Frisk' at Hearing

By Jill Colvin | October 10, 2012 7:28am

CITY HALL — The Bloomberg administration is expected to pan a series of proposed reforms to the NYPD's controversial stop-and-frisk program at a long-awaited hearing Wednesday morning.

Up for debate is the Community Safety Act, which would create a new NYPD inspector general charged with monitoring the department and providing independent oversight, following growing complaints over racial and ethnic profiling.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg staunchly opposes the bills, warning the reforms would undermine the gains the city has made in fighting crime.

“I think if you want to bring crime back, let’s go politicize control of the police department,” he told reporters earlier this week before the Columbus Day Parade. “The last thing we need is to have some politician or judge getting involved with setting policy, because you won’t be safe anymore.”

The NYPD made nearly 700,000 stops last year — the vast majority of which were black and Latino young men.

Marc La Vorgna, a spokesman for the mayor, said the city’s testimony will deal primarily with legal issues with the proposed bills.

In addition to the inspector general bill, the package includes a bill that would force officers identify themselves and explain the reason for any stop or search and provide a written record of their interaction, as well as explicitly tell people who are stopped that they have a right to object.

The final piece would prohibit the NYPD from profiling based on a list of new factors, including age, sex and gender identity, in addition to ethnicity, religion and race. The bill would also allow any person or organization affected by bias-based profiling to sue the city and officers engaged in profiling damages.

"The City Council expresses deep concern about the impact of NYPD practices on various communities in New York City," reads the legislation. "Bias-based profiling by the police alienates communities from law enforcement, violates New Yorkers' rights and freedoms, and is a danger to public safety."

The bills have enough support to pass the council in an open vote, but it is up to City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, a mayoral hopeful in next year's election, to decide if they make it to the floor.

Meanwhile, key sponsors, including City Councilman Brad Lander and Jumaane Williams, are planning to hold a rally on City Hall stops before the hearing.

But City Councilman Peter Vallone Jr., chair of the council’s Public Safety committee, said the proposal would open the city up to a flood of lawsuits and threatened that the costs, even without monetary damages, would be massive.

"It would blow a massive hole in the city budget and take control of the NYPD from [Police Commissioner] Ray Kelly and give it to judges — which would cause crime to skyrocket,” Vallone, who has not taken a position on the other bills, added.

Quinn, who will attend the hearing, hasn't taken made a final decision on the bills, either. But she has maintained that more must be done to reform the policy, which she said threatens to drive a dangerous wedge between communities of color and police.

“I hope [the fact that we're having a hearing] sends a message that the council’s call for reforming stop question and frisk is not over and that continues,” she said at an unrelated press conference at City Hall Tuesday. “Eighth hundred thousand stops at the height of the stops, concentrated almost exclusively in lower-income neighborhoods of color, targeting African-American, Caribbean-American and Latino men is an extreme focus on one part of our city.”