NEW YORK CITY — The City Council voted overwhelmingly Thursday to overturn Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s veto of two controversial police oversight bills known as the Community Safety Act.
The council voted 39 - 10 to clear the way to establish an inspector general of the police department, and voted 34 to 15 to override the mayor’s veto of a bill to allow police bias lawsuits to be filed in state court, as well as federal court.
Bloomberg called the vote a "dangerous" step in the wrong direction for city safety.
“Today, the City Council adopted legislation that will make it harder for our police officers to protect New Yorkers and continue to drive down crime," Bloomberg said in a statement. "Make no mistake: the communities that will feel the most negative impacts of these bills will be minority communities across our city, which have been the greatest beneficiaries of New York City’s historic crime reductions."
He promised to go to court to stop the legislation, saying, "Both bills outsource management of the NYPD to unaccountable officials, making it harder for the next mayor and police commissioner to make the decisions they believe necessary to keep our city safe."
Ahead of the hearing, Council Speaker Christine Quinn — who supported the IG bill but opposed the bias bill on the ground that it would sow legal confusion by allowing bias suits to be filed in both federal and state court, instead of only in federal court as is the case now — said she had expected the bills' passage.
“We've seen in this city policies and practices in the police department that have gotten out of hand,” she said. “[Stop-and-frisk] is a practice that needs immediate reform and passage of this legislation will bring permanent monitoring in the police department.”
The inspector general position is set to begin on Jan. 1, 2014. The position will be a mayoral appointee and will be based in an office in the city's Department of Investigation.
Quinn said she does not expect any conflict between the inspector general and a court-appointed monitor established by federal judge Shira Scheindlin, who ruled earlier this month that the department’s stop-and-frisk tactic is unconstitutional.
Councilman Eric Ulrich of Queens blasted the inspector general bill as an “absurd” and “unnecessary waste of money.”
“This is not going to lower crime. The only thing it's going to lower is the morale of the police department,” Ulrich said on the floor of the council chamber.
But proponents of the bias bill said it would help reconfirm the constitutional rights for all residents of the city.
“The battle has been great, but we cannot continue to allow this administration to victimize our young people of color,” Councilman Robert Jackson said. “No one should fear humiliation or harassment at the hands of law enforcement based on the color of their skin.”
The bias bill is set to go into effect 90 days after its passage.