All but one member of the Queens delegation to Congress supported an amendment to a bill last week that could have stripped millions of dollars in federal funding to the NYPD, including anti-terror programs.
All but one of the major candidates for the seat being vacated by Congressman Gary Ackerman said they would have voted against it.
The amendment to a bill funding the U.S. Department of Justice was introduced by Congressman Rush Holt (D-NJ). The amendment would have denied federal funding to any law enforcement agency that engages in religious, racial or ethnic profiling.
While the bill itself did not mention the NYPD, Holt blasted the department, citing stories by the Associated Press accusing the NYPD of using profiling in its attempts to infiltrate portions of the Muslim community in its intelligence-gathering operations.
Several published sources quoted Holt from the floor of the House before the vote as accusing the NYPD of racism and employing an “unthinking, lazy and unprofessional approach “ to police work and intelligence-gathering.
The measure failed by a 232-193 margin, almost exclusively along party lines with Democrats supporting the amendment and Republicans opposing it.
Four members of Congress from Queens — Joe Crowley (D-Queens, Bronx), Carolyn Maloney (D-Queens-Manhattan), Gary Ackerman (D-Queens, Nassau) and Nydia Velazquez (D-Queens, Manhattan) voted in favor of it. Congressman Gregory Meeks was in a meeting at the time of the vote, but his spokeswoman said he would have supported it.
Bob Turner (R-Queens, Brooklyn) opposed the measure and excoriated his Democratic colleagues in a joint statement issued with Congressman Peter King (R-LI).
“These allegations are wrong and disgraceful,” they said. “We strongly disagree with the entire statement from Rep. Holt. We are utterly dumbfounded and shocked that after such a slanderous attack, the overwhelming majority of Congressional Democrats and the entire Democratic Leadership voted for the Holt amendment and against the NYPD.”
They cited the department’s success in stopping “13 Islamist plots against New York” since the 9/11 attacks. We believe the Democrats owe New York and the NYPD an explanation for their shameful surrender to political correctness,” they concluded.
Queens Democrats said their votes were aimed at eliminating profiling, and that it did not mention the NYPD. But they still were attempting to distance themselves from Holt, if not his amendment.
“The NYPD is by far the best-trained, best-equipped and best-educated police force in the U.S.,” Crowley said. “As part of these efforts, the NYPD engages in behavioral profiling, which is a responsible counterterrorism tactic and far different from the racial, religious or ethnic profiling we have seen elsewhere. The bigger issue here is the need to improve communications and build greater trust ... That is why I voted for the Holt amendment — to make it clear that targeting people based exclusively on their race, religion, or background is not what our country needs.”
“We should not be engaging in racial, ethnic or religious profiling — that is why I voted for Congressman Holt’s amendment,” Maloney said.
The offices of Ackerman and Velazquez did not respond to requests for comment, though three of the people seeking Ackerman’s seat in the fall also said they would not have supported Holt, including Crowley’s cousin, Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village), Assemblyman Rory Lancman (D-Fresh Meadows) and Councilman Dan Halloran (R-Whitestone).
“Withholding federal funding from our police department because our cops have done their job is wrong,” said Crowley in a statement issued by her campaign. “The NYPD has acted lawfully to protect New Yorkers from very real terrorist threats.”
Lancman said intelligence gathering is essential to preventing future attacks “and starving the NYPD of critical funding is not the way to address legitimate concerns that certain efforts may have crossed the line.”
In a telephone interview, Halloran wasn’t buying a word about the NYPD not being in the amendment.
“Maybe Democrats ought to actually read bills so that they know what they’re voting on before they become laws,” he said. “The NYPD was in the committee notes. There is just one reason this amendment was introduced.”
o statement from Assemblywoman Grace Meng (D-Flushing) did not say whether or not she would have voted for it. “Representative Holt’s comments are simply wrong and ignorant,” she said. “Disparaging the hardworking men and women of the NYPD is inappropriate and counterproductive. Yet it is imperative that the correct balance be met between shielding us from harm while still defending our civil liberties.I am firmly opposed to the use of tactics that discriminate based on race and religion.Encouraging better relationships between diverse communities and law enforcement is a more effective way of building bridges that will lead to better cooperation in keeping us safe.”