In a speech at 1 Police Plaza today Mayor Bloomberg gave a blistering critique of anyone who would dare challenge the NYPD—be it civil liberties groups, mayoral candidates, or the press. “My message is simple: Stop playing politics with public safety. Look at what’s happened in Boston," Bloomberg said. "Remember what happened here on 9/11."
After heaping praise on the NYPD brass for the marked drop in crime (no one disputes that this is a good thing) Bloomberg rehashed some of his old lines: the NRA and the NYCLU are both "extremists," an Inspector General for the NYPD would "make it harder for the Police Commissioner to maintain unity of command," and any attempts to reign in the NYPD's surveillance program is "dangerous."
"If the NYPD conducted stops and intelligence gathering based on demographic data rather than real leads, guns would be everywhere in our city, thousands of New Yorkers who are alive today would be dead and terrorists may well have succeeded in attacking us again," Bloomberg said, referring to the demographic data that the NYPD used to spy on the Muslim community that has generated zero leads and instead deeply alienated Muslims.
"And yet some in the City Council and some mayoral candidates are supporting legislation that would push the NYPD in that direction," Bloomberg said, referring to the Community Safety Act. "Make no mistake, this is a dangerous a piece of legislation—and anyone who supports it is courting disaster…If the bills pass, they will make our city less safe and innocent people will pay a terrible price."
Have the American people paid a "terrible price" at the hands of the FBI's Inspector General?
The mayor also presented this scenario as a result of the Community Safety Act passing: "If an officer is told by a witness that a 20-something white man wearing a blue windbreaker was seen shooting a gun, the officer under this bill could only use the color of the windbreaker as a lead. That means the law would require the officer to ignore all the information provided by the witness except the color of the windbreaker, and the officer would have to stop 80-year-old black women if they’re wearing blue windbreakers."
Supporters of the bill, Communities United for Police Reform, deny this charge on their website, stating that the language of the bill "would clearly be permissible to include identifying information about suspects in descriptions."
When the City Council held a hearing for the Community Safety Act in October, the mayor sent one of his attorneys to defend his position. No representative from the NYPD attended.
Mayoral frontrunner Christine Quinn says she disagrees with the racial profiling elements of the Community Safety Act, but supports the creation of an Inspector General. Other Democratic mayoral candidates support the bills to varying degrees.
Bloomberg also took aim at the New York Times, criticizing the paper for not giving the coverage of the shooting death of 17-year-old Alphonza Bryant in the Bronx earlier this month (the Times did mention it on their website):
After his murder, there was no outrage from the Center for Constitutional Rights or the NYCLU. There was not even a mention of his murder in our paper of record, the New York Times. All the news that’s fit to print did not include the murder of 17-year-old Alphonso Bryant.
Do you think that if a white 17-year-old prep student from Manhattan had been murdered, the Times would have ignored it?
Executive Director of the NYCLU, Donna Lieberman, responded to the mayor's comments in a statement: "It's a lot easier to trash the NYCLU than to acknowledge the widespread dissatisfaction the community feels with an NYPD that acts like it's above the law and accountable to no one."
She continues, "This is not about an argument between the mayor and the NYCLU. This is about the humiliation, frustration and disrespect felt by New Yorkers from communities of color every day as they are subject to the mayor's stop-and-frisk regime."
You can read the entire text of Bloomberg's speech here.