In the latest chapter in the contentious battle over stop and frisk, New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg has vetoed bills passed by the City Council that would heighten the level of oversight by the police department and provide a path for citizens to sue over police profiling.
And New Yorkers are waiting to see if the mayor’s veto will stand or whether they will be overridden by the council.
In vetoing the two bills, the mayor denounced both measures as being “dangerous and irresponsible.”
The New York City Police Department’s stop and frisk policy has been highly controversial in the nation’s largest city largely because it has caused hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers to be stopped and detained by police each year. The overwhelming majority of those stopped — more than 85 percent — have been African-American and Latino.
The 51-member City Council passed the two pieces of legislation last month, both being approved with at least 34 votes, the precise number needed to override a veto by the mayor. The bill to create an independent inspector general for the police passed with more than two-thirds of the council.
The other bill, which would expand the ability of New Yorkers to sue the police in state courts for claims of racial profiling, was passed in the Council by a smaller number of votes. From the outset, Bloomberg said he would seek to persuade at least one City Council member to turn to his side.
“We have 30 days from the day of the veto to override the mayor’s veto,” said Leticia James, a member of the City Council from a district in Brooklyn, in an interview with BET.com.
“We have the 34 votes we need, assuming that no one calls out sick and no one is bought off,” said James, a strong supporter of the measures. “We hope that everyone in the Council will honor their pledge to vote in support of these two pieces of legislation.”
Critics have charged that the practice of stop and frisk amounts to little more than state-sanctioned racial profiling, pointing out that the overwhelming number of those stopped are found to be innocent of any wrongdoing.
“I think it’s embarrassing for the mayor and city,” said Brooklyn City Councilman Jumaane Williams, who has been in the forefront as a champion of the two bills.
“As a time when the nation is saying that profiling is dangerous, the mayor and the police commissioner are begging to allow people to be profiled,” Williams said, speaking with BET.com. “It’s a terrible tone for the people who live here and it goes against the grain of where the nation is now.”
Nonetheless, the stop-and-frisk practice has been staunchly defended by Bloomberg and the city’s police commissioner, Raymond W. Kelly, who contend that it is crucial to reducing crime in New York City.
“Racial profiling is a disingenuous charge at best and an incendiary one at worst, particularly in the wake of the tragic death of Trayvon Martin,” Kelly wrote in an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal.
“The effect is to obscure the rock-solid legal and constitutional foundation underpinning the police department's tactics and the painstaking analysis that determines how we employ them.”
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(Photo: Andrew Burton/Getty Images)