Tonight around 10 p.m. the (very busy) City Council will vote on two bills that would allow citizens to meaningfully challenge discriminatory police practices and install an Inspector General to broadly review NYPD policy and make recommendations. The bills have a good chance of passing, and polling shows that voters support the creation of an Inspector General. How is NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly reacting to the impending check on his unparalleled power? Not well.
In a letter to councilmembers from Kelly obtained by the Post, the commissioner levels a new line of criticism against the bills, known as the Community Safety Act: it will jeopardize the police departments' thousands of cameras.
“[The bills] would permit disparate impact lawsuits not only against the practice of stop, question and frisk, but against any police activity, operation, policy or program, including the use of police cameras in your district as well as in New York City Housing Authority developments,” Kelly wrote.
This comes as a surprise to one of the CSA's sponsors, Councilmember Jumaane Williams: “I have funded cameras in my district and I’m not going to put in a bill that would take away those cameras."
Williams added, “The absurdity of their claims by the day is increasing, and I think they’re ruining their own credibility."
At a press conference earlier today, Kelly declined to comment on the bills. The commissioner's camera threat is tame compared to the Daily News editorial board's decision to completely misread the legislation and rehash bogus arguments that have already been disproven:
A woman reports that a white male teen wearing a Yankees jersey had snatched her pocketbook outside the Stadium after a game. A police officer sees five people wearing jerseys. Three are white and two are black. Two of the whites are men and one is a woman. One of the whites is a teenager; the other is middle-aged.
By process of elimination, the cop zeroes in on the white teen, but that means considering forbidden characteristics: his race, gender and age.
This is simply not true. The officer in this scenario would be able to detain the white male because they are not making the determination to stop him based on race, gender, or age alone. The suspect's clothing is described, along with those other factors. The stop is valid.
As the co-sponsor of the CSA, Councilmember Brad Lander, told us last week, "The bill allows police officers to use all manner of descriptive information, including skin color, height, age, in suspect descriptions. It absolutely allows it and it's a lie to say it doesn't."
The Daily News doesn't even bother making an argument against an Inspector General. Other City agencies have them, so does the FBI. When asked about the FBI's IG at a press conference urging the City Council to spike the CSA on Monday, Mayor Bloomberg responded:
The FBI isn't an organization that's on the streets every day. We have 35,000 people on the streets of this city, uniformed people…And it's very different kind of policing with a very different objective I think we know exactly what we're doing. And I have no idea if the FBI is happy with it or not.
Tonight the City Council will decide if "We know exactly what we're doing" is better than a person who's job is to make sure that's the case.