With the help of the The New York Post, the city's police unions are repeating the lie that pending City Council legislation to widen and entrench anti-bias laws would prevent police from sufficiently describing a suspect.
“It will ban cops from identifying a suspect’s age, gender, color or disability," Roy Richter, president of the Captain's Endowment Association, told the tabloid. But if you actually read the legislation, you're forced to come to a different conclusion. "It's a flat out misrepresentation of the bill and everybody knows it," the legislation's co-sponsor, Councilmember Brad Lander said, referring to Richter's comments. "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."
Indeed, the Community Safety Act would prohibit police from stopping someone solely based on those descriptive factors alone, and it widens the scope to include gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, immigration status, and housing status.
If that sounds familiar, it's because current law already dictates that a simple profile alone cannot be the "determinative factor" in stopping a suspect (there's a little trial concerning this issue that wrapped up recently).
Officers must have "reasonable suspicion" or the suspect must fit a specific description to stop someone on the street. "Since fitting a description was the reason for a stop-and-frisk just 16 percent of the time in 2012, [the Community Safety Act] will force the Department to explain why 90 percent of people stopped are black and Latino," NYCLU director Donna Lieberman said in a recent release.
"Today, there's no right of action for people who feel they were wronged by a specific police policy, not a specific officer," Lander said, offering racially skewed marijuana arrests as an example. "You can't sue for that under federal law, or city or state law today. This bill gives people a way to get injunctive relief against a discriminatory police policy."
The legislation prohibits the awarding of monetary damages in these cases, muting the threat of "an avalanche of lawsuits" that the Bloomberg administration has invoked to criticize the bill. If anything, there's already an avalanche of expensive lawsuits against the NYPD.
Speaker Christine Quinn and the bill's other co-sponsor, Councilmember Jumaane Williams, are bringing the bill to the floor for a vote after Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr. prevented it from leaving the Public Safety Committee.
The police unions are running the ad of Richter in a blindfold to “focus on…Speaker Quinn’s political decision to sell the security of all New Yorkers for votes," president of the Detectives Union, Michael Paladino told the Post. "Where was the speaker and her legislation for the last seven years?”
"I don't really understand it," Lander said of the unions' objections. "We hear from a lot of individual officers about the quotas-driven management of the department—what they would like to see is a policy change so they can get out there and do their jobs. They support [the legislation], I don't know why their unions don't."