The NYPD did not send any representatives to today's Public Safety Committee hearing on four bills aimed at curbing illegal stop-and-frisks and creating an Inspector General's office to oversee the department, so the task of opposing the legislation fell to a single member of the Bloomberg administration: counsel to the mayor Michael Best. For over two and a half hours, with the stoicism of an expertly trained technocrat, Best repeated the mantra that the City Council's proposals were "legally infirm" and "curtailed" the mayor's power. In reference to a bill that would require officers to hand out business cards to citizens after a stop, Best described a situation in which officers on a vertical patrol of a city housing unit at 3 a.m. looking for witnesses would be forced to "fumble around for business cards or recording devices when they're trying to talk to a witness."

Counsel to the Mayor, Michael Best

But besides that vivid scenario (in which NYPD may someday be forced to carry business cards as well as firearms), Best confessed he had little knowledge of the NYPD's patrol guide, studies conducted on the fudging of crime statistics, or illegal stop-and-frisks—or other information germane to the laws being discussed. "I am here to discuss the legality of these four laws," Best said at one point, later adding, "I'm not going to negotiate a bill in the middle of a hearing."

Councilmember Brand Lander called Best's arguments "absurd," noting that taking this view, "every single new law we passed would be considered 'curtailing.' " Speaker Christine Quinn asked Best who signed a law prohibiting racial profiling. "Bloomberg! That's my point!" Quinn said. "How could you say that we don't have the authority?"

Even the chairman of the Public Safety Committee, Peter Vallone Jr., who opened the hearing with a strident opposition to the bill that would loosen the current definition of racial profiling, said he was confused by Best's argument that creating Inspector General for the NYPD would infringe on the mayor's power. Best repeated that having guidelines for hiring the IG, as the bill does, would curtail the mayor's authority. "You didn't give me a lot of reasons there," Vallone said, shaking his head. "But okay."

Vallone, who warned that "day care and homeless services would be eliminated" if the City Council passed the law widening the scope for lawsuits against the city for racial profiling, butted heads with several of his colleagues, including Letitia James and Helen Foster. In one exchange, filmed by Capital NY, Foster tells Vallone, who interrupted her, “I am not one of your boys I do not work for you, you cannot speak to me this way."

"This legislation is very much consistent with state law, and we're confident it will pass constitutional muster," NYCLU executive director Donna Lieberman said. "In the long run, an Inspector General for the NYPD would save the city a bundle, as it is now the lawsuits against the NYPD are costing the city an arm and a leg."

During his testimony, Best, the mayor's attorney, said he saw "no correlation" between the $186.3 million the city spent defending the NYPD in court last year, and the argument that an IG would ultimately lessen the number of lawsuits filed against the city for police misconduct. "It's shortsighted and nearsighted," Lieberman said. Councilmember Lander agreed: "Oversight by litigation is not the way to run the government. We need an Inspector General to solve these problems earlier."

Best also testified that the NYPD's own Internal Affairs Bureau was more than equipped to deal with policing the NYPD, along with the CCRB, the DAs for the five boroughs and the federal government. He noted at least three times the city's lower murder rate this year, and praised the NYPD's "proactive, data-driven policing."

In response, Councilmember Jumaane Williams, the lead sponsor of the bills, said, "I like that more people are surviving being shot, but I would like them to not be shot in the first place." Williams added, "The commissioner did a great job for the cameras to make it seem like we had no solutions. We are proposing solutions."