Crowds outside New York City Hall. Courtesy: Molly Knefel.
Spencer Wolff contributed reporting to this piece.
In an afternoon session today, the New York City Council overrode Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s veto of the Community Safety Act, striking a major blow to some of the more controversial aspects of the New York Police Department’s stop-and-frisk policy.
The City Council initially passed the Community Safety act in June. But when Mayor Bloomberg vetoed the bills last month, he set the stage for today’s vote.
More than two years in the making, the CSA is made up of a pair of bills, one that will create an independent inspector general position to monitor and review NYPD policies and practices, and make non-binding recommendations to the mayor and police commissioner; and another that will expand the categories of individuals who will be protected against profiling by the department. Currently, the department is banned from profiling based on race, ethnicity, religion and national origin. This second bill will extend protection based on age, gender, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, immigration status, disability and housing status, and allow individuals to bring discrimination claims against the department if they believe they’ve been unfairly profiled.
“I’m 61 years old,” community leader Carl Stubbs told The Nation. “I’m out here for my grandkids. I’ve been stopped six times. This vote made me feel better for the young ones that are growing up. We used to party with the police, but now we’ve lost that relationship. I feel good about this vote.”
The council’s override of Bloomberg’s veto comes just one week after a federal judge ruled the NYPD’s implementation of stop-and-frisk unconstitutional and racially discriminatory in the case of Floyd v. City of New York. Mayor Bloomberg has vowed to appeal that decision, and the city filed notices of appeal last week. Taken together, the CSA and the Floyd decision mark a major rebuke to the policing policies of Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly.
“No one on this floor is anti-NYPD, we’re anti policies that aren’t working,” Council Member Jumaane Williams said before the general session vote. “This is about civil rights.”
In her introduction of the inspector-general bill, Council Speaker and mayoral candidate Christine Quinn denounced stop-and-frisk as “a practice that is unconstitutional and must come to an end.” Today’s votes ensure that New York is at least one step closer to halting discriminatory profiling and bringing about more fair and effective policing policies.
Before this week’s vote, 18-year-old Brooklyn resident Keeshan Harley talked about the incredible strains regular police stops have placed on his own life and that of his family. After the council overrode Bloomberg’s veto, Harley told The Nation, “I feel optimistic, I feel joyful, hopeful, that we can make progress now.”
Watch the video to hear some of the injustices hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers have been subjected to under stop-and-frisk.