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Police Unions Unfazed by Thompson's Damning Tone On 'Stop-and-Frisks'

By Murray Weiss | July 29, 2013 3:00pm
 Democratic mayoral candidate Bill Thompson.
Democratic mayoral candidate Bill Thompson.
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DNAinfo/Colby Hamilton

NEW YORK CITY — Police unions remained strongly behind mayoral candidate Bill Thompson after his impassioned church sermon Sunday denouncing the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk policy with comparisons to the Trayvon Martin killing.

At the Abundant Life Church in Prospect Lefferts Gardens, Thompson, the former comptroller and lone black mayoral candidate, ratcheted up his opposition to the NYPD’s reliance on stop-and-frisk under Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly and Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

“Here in New York City, we have institutionalized Mr. [George] Zimmerman’s suspicion with a policy that all but requires our police officers to treat young black and Latino men with suspicion, to stop them and frisk them because of the color of their skin,” Thompson said, referring to the man who shot the unarmed Martin.

“If our government profiles people because of skin color and treats them as potential criminals, how can we expect citizens to do any less?”

That rhetoric didn't trouble cop unions chiefs who have backed Thompson.

“The reality is I think Bill Thompson continues to be the most realistic and reasonable of all the candidates and in the end it is campaign rhetoric,” said Michael Palladino, president of the Detectives' Endowment Association.

Roy Richter, who is the president of the NYPD’s Captains Endowment Association, likewise said he was not fazed.

“Bill Thompson wants to bring people to policing,” Richter said. “That’s good for the city and good for the NYPD.”

During the 11-year Bloomberg era, the number of stop-and-frisks skyrocketed from about 100,000 per year to a high of 700,000, a jump of 600 percent in encounters that overwhelmingly involve innocent New Yorkers primarily in minority communities. 

"On The Inside" was the first to report that despite the increase in frisks, the number of guns seized and shootings remained a constant throughout the Bloomberg years.

The stop-and-frisk policy has become the hot-button issue during the city’s mayoral race.

Palladino said he was surprised at just how much attention the issue has received, overshadowing other important issues such as education or the city’s financial health. "There are many more critical issues in this campaign than stop-and-frisk," he said.

He noted that in the end the entire issue may be determined by federal Judge Shira Scheindlin and whether the feds install an NYPD monitor as a watchdog. 

“I agree with Bill that it is a necessary police tool as long as it is implemented within the context of the law,” Palladino said.

Thompson also has the support of the lieutenants’ union, whose president, Louis Turco, did not return a call seeking comment.

The sergeants' union and the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, the city’s largest police union, have yet to endorse a candidate.

Sources say Thompson is leaning toward returning Bill Bratton to the NYPD where he was credited with turning around the department and the city’s crime rate.  Bratton also served in Los Angeles, where the police force has an existing federal monitor.

The police unions, however, have opposed two new City Council bills to establish an NYPD inspector general and outlawing racial profiling that also provides the public with wider latitude to sue cops who stop them. The mayor has vetoed both bills, which await a final council vote. 

Thompson's position not to dismantle stop-and-frisk entirely has attracted the unions.

He has also proposed that any NYPD inspector general operate within the Police Department rather than outside and said he opposes the bill that would open state courts to racial profiling claims.