After NYPD unions targeted City Councilwoman Debi Rose for her support of the Community Safety Act, advocates turned out to support her — and she promised not to waver when it comes time to override an expected mayoral veto of the two bills.
Wednesday’s rally outside Borough Hall in support of Ms. Rose and the legislation also came as Mayor Michael Bloomberg has said he will veto the act, and that he’ll use his political influence and funding to try to flip at least one Council member’s vote on a bill that tightens racial profiling laws, which would allow his veto to stand.
But that vote to uphold a veto won’t come from Debi Rose, said Councilman Jumaane Williams of Brooklyn, the bill’s lead sponsor.
“She has said, ‘Not only will I vote for the override, you have only strengthened my will to make sure the Community Safe Act passes,'” Williams told a crowd at Borough Hall.
Ms. Rose reiterated that in her speech to the crowd.
“Jumaane, you don’t have to worry about my pulling out of the veto override,” she promised.
The legislation is not an attack on the police, Ms. Rose said, or an attempt to handcuff or blindfold them, but rather a way to make communities safer. But she criticized their reaction to the legislation.
“It disturbs me that the mayor and the police supervisors unions have made this into an issue which pits New York’s Finest against people in our communities, in all communities, that have experienced a disparate number of stops,” she said.
Ms. Rose told the crowd that in the North Shore’s 120th Precinct last year, 12,368 people were stopped; 84 percent were people of color and 82 percent of those stopped were innocent. Ms. Rose said the stops are driven by police productivity goals, creating a constitutional issue.
“As an elected member of the City Council, I took an oath to uphold the Constitution, to protect the rights of every citizen,” she said. “And as the Civil Rights Committee chair, it is doubly my responsibility and duty to ensure the civil rights of all new Yorkers are preserved and upheld.”
In response to Ms. Rose’s comments, Chris Monahan, vice president of the Captains Endowment Association and a Castleton Corners resident, said if anything has strained the relationship between Staten Islanders and police, it’s the legislation, not the police unions.
“There’s always been a great relationship between the community and the police on Staten Island,” Monahan said.
After the rally, Ms. Rose said she supports the legislation because she lives the issue every day.
“I live in the community where these acts of overly aggressive policing, stopping everybody randomly, is a way of life. And I have a son, who has been stopped numerous times,” Ms. Rose said. “It’s long past time that we do something that addresses the fact that people’s basic civil rights are being infringed upon on a daily basis in such large numbers as a daily occurrence and as business as usual.”
Ms. Rose said she was glad to see the support of the community for her vote at the rally.
“New Yorkers get it, and the purpose of this rally today was to try to clarify the misconceptions that are being perpetrated by the law enforcement supervisory unions and the mayor,” she said.
In that vein, Williams slammed the mayor and police unions for their characterization of the bill.
Critics have said — notably via a commercial featuring a blindfolded police officer — that the racial profiling bill would stop police from describing suspects to one another.
Williams challenged those critics to show him where it says that; if they can, he said, he’ll pull the bill before the override vote.
“If you cannot do that, you should pull your ad,” Williams said. “That is a challenge from the lead sponsor of the bill: Put up or shut up.”
But Captains Endowment Association President Roy Richter, the blindfolded officer in the ad, wasn’t backing away from his criticism.
“Intro 1080 is bad law with deadly consequences. This new law will cause police officers to refrain from relaying important descriptions of perpetrators to responding officers when investigating violent crime,” he said. “That is not in anyone’s interest and is dangerous to the public and the police. I hope Council Member Rose responds to my invitation to discuss this dangerous legislation and sees that the issues she defends are correct but the law she helped pass is wrong.”
The profiling bill enables citizens to sue the department for policies they find disparately impact one group, although they cannot sue for monetary gain.
The union’s Monahan said that while the bill doesn’t outlaw describing someone, it’s the specter of lawsuits for stopping the wrong person that will hamstring police.
“In a nutshell, the police officer now has to prove himself why he stopped that person,” Monahan said.
Among the groups rallying in support of Ms. Rose were Make the Road New York, the National Action Network, the New York Civil Liberties Union and the Locals 1199 and 32BJ of the SEIU.
And then there was Peter Killen, a retired NYPD detective from Shore Acres. Years ago, Killen said, Stop, Question and Frisk was an effective tool — and was used only to track down a suspect described over radio.
“It is now used by the NYPD as an occupying force in the city,” he alleged.
He said officers use the tactic to meet numbers requested by their supervisors — and they should stop until they can be retrained.
“Police officers have been programmed that they have to do this to get numbers, and they do this, and it’s wrong,” Killen said.
To view the original video, click here.