Councilman Jumaane Williams has been at the forefront of a push to reform the NYPD's controversial stop and frisk policy, which has been criticized as racist and unconstitutional. (NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly insists that stop and frisk isn't racial profiling, something Williams calls "bullshit.") Along with other Councilmembers, he's working to reform the NYPD's stop and frisk policies, but his efforts meeting getting resistance from Councilman Peter Vallone, Jr.
Bill No. 800 of the Community Safety Act, which the City Council will formally hold hearings on next Wednesday, would empower individuals to sue the city if they feel their stop and frisk experience was based on racial profiling. But although Williams is including an amendment that would prohibit costly lawsuits for compensatory damages (lawsuits could only be filed to get the NYPD to change its policing), Vallone believes the bill could cost the city $1 billion in lawsuits. And in an interview with City & State, Vallone went further:
What this bill would do, is it would say that race could not be used to any degree, which really shows a complete naivete to police work. You might as well tell the NYPD gang unit to turn in their badges and go home if they couldn’t use race as a factor as they combat the ethnic gangs in New York City.
The only diverse gang in New York City history was The Warriors, and they were make-believe. I don’t know what the amendment means. Maybe the amendment is still gonna allow attorney fees. Even if you don’t pay out on every case, just defending these suits alone would shut down the police department and cost the city tons of money.
Today we asked Williams what he thinks of Vallone's accusation of naivete, and he told us, "I think it's naivete to believe that we want to do anything but make sure the police can do their jobs. I am willing to explore any reasonable concern with the bill, but his concern isn't valid here. This bill says you can't stop every black or every Mexican person in the entire city, but if [the police] have specific information about gang behavior or unlawful behavior, they are still allowed to use everything they need to get that under control."
Asked about Vallone's concern that the bill would bankrupt the city, Williams said, "There are some people who push back every time you try to do some reform in the NYPD and that's to be expected. And if we didn't have any push-back I'd think we weren't heading in the right direction. The billion dollar claim was obviously hyperbole." Williams is confident his bill will pass and says he has the support of "well over a majority" of Councilmembers.
As for The Warriors, Williams told us, "That was a great movie. I liked it, and I'm glad he liked it as well. We just want to make sure police do good police work, and nobody wants that more than the people who represent these communities. We are trying to correct policies that are not helping at all and in fact making things worse."