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Know Your Rights
Source: New York Times
Subject: Workplace Justice
Type: Media Coverage

Quinn to Allow Vote on a Profiling Bill

Christine C. Quinn, the New York City Council speaker and a Democratic candidate for mayor, said on Wednesday that she would not support a proposed bill to open state courts to claims of racial profiling by the Police Department, but would allow the bill’s sponsors to submit it for a vote.

The move allowed her to head off some criticism from her opponents in the mayoral primary, whom she faced on Wednesday evening in a televised debate on public safety. Even so, two of her opponents, the public advocate, Bill de Blasio, and the city comptroller, John C. Liu, accused her of turning a blind eye to profiling by the police.

Ms. Quinn made her comments about the bill, part of a broader package of proposals known as the Community Safety Act, in a speech on policing in the afternoon.

The bill has the support of a majority on the Council, and Ms. Quinn has never allowed a bill to come for a full vote without her support in her seven years as Council speaker. She said to reporters after the speech that it “very likely could pass.”Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, an independent, and the police commissioner, Raymond W. Kelly — as well as Republican candidates for mayor — strongly oppose the Community Safety Act. Last month, before the first mayoral debate on public safety, Ms. Quinn announced that she would support a different element of the package: the creation of an independent monitor for the police.

The current version of the bill removed what had been among the most contentious aspects: the ability to seek monetary damages from the Police Department. Lawsuits could now be brought only for injunctive relief from the courts.

“In communities of color, the profiling bill is most important,” said Javier H. Valdes, an executive director of Make the Road New York, a group involved in the negotiations.

In the debate, Mr. de Blasio brought up Ms. Quinn’s opposition to the racial profiling bill, saying, “I think we need that bill as another step toward healing and strengthening the relationship between police and community.”

Later, after Ms. Quinn said that racial profiling was already “illegal in the City of New York,” Mr. Liu, who has proposed banning police stop-and-frisk tactics, jumped into the discussion.

“Speaker Quinn says racial profiling is prohibited in this city of New York,” he said, raising his voice to a shout. “Unfortunately, stop and frisk in New York City is the biggest form of systemic racial profiling we have anywhere in the United States of America, and it has to be ended.” At that, the audience applauded.

Later in the debate, after another candidate, Sal F. Albanese, said that the City Council had failed to effectively oversee the Police Department, Ms. Quinn forcefully defended her record, saying that Council legislation had compelled the Police Department to report the number of stops its officers made annually. She also took credit for an agreement in which the police gave the Civilian Complaint Review Board the power to prosecute substantiated cases of misconduct by police officers.

In a bitter exchange at the end of the debate, Mr. de Blasio accused Ms. Quinn of “revisionist history” regarding her record of police oversight, saying that she had previously opposed a bill he had advanced that would have given the board prosecutorial authority.

“Let’s be clear and not act like this is something you’ve been committed to long-term,” he said.

Ms. Quinn shot back that it was Mr. de Blasio who was engaged in “revisionist history,” saying that she had opposed the bill at the time because it was not “legally doable.” In the end, the Police Department signed a memorandum of understanding with the board giving it prosecutorial authority.

Supporters of the Community Safety Act vowed to move forward with the bill in the City Council and to press for each mayoral candidate to take a public stand in support or opposition.

But Councilman Peter F. Vallone Jr., the chairman of the public safety committee and a vocal opponent of the bill, said he “could not think of a worse time for her to do something for the first time,” referring to Ms. Quinn.

Ms. Quinn said that allowing such cases in state court — where the barrier to entry would be different from federal court — would create “a real risk that a multitude of state court judges issue rulings that could take control of police policy away from the mayor and commissioner” if the profiling bill became law.

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