There has recently been a great deal of heated discussion about the two bills that comprise the Community Safety Act (Introductions 1079 and 1080), which the New York City Council passed in late June. New Yorkers have been receiving some false information on these bills, so I think the time has come to calm down and look at the facts.
Intro. 1080 does not prevent police officers from using stop and frisk. Police profiling based on race and other categories is already unlawful, based on a 2004 bill signed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Yet under both current law and Intro. 1080, police officers can include race, gender, age and other relevant information when pursuing criminal suspects.
While Intro. 1080 does not eliminate or alter stop and frisk, it does address bias-based profiling. This has become an epidemic over the past decade, all because of Mayor Bloomberg’s insistence that officers conduct an increasing number of quota-driven stops. Every day I hear unsettling stories of local residents, law-abiding taxpayers, being stopped on the street in their own neighborhoods for no apparent reason. Stops increased by a jarring 700 percent from 2002 to 2011 without a corresponding drop in gun violence. Intro. 1080 will not prevent police officers from stopping people, but it does reiterate that officers must have a law enforcement basis for a stop.
It has been suggested that Intro. 1080 opens the door to frivolous lawsuits, but when other states enacted similar laws, the numbers of lawsuits did not significantly increase. Additionally, plaintiffs could not seek monetary damages under the bill, nor could they sue individual officers. Instead, if policies are discriminatory or ineffective, individuals can sue to have those policies changed. By prompting the abandonment of wasteful practices, Intro. 1080 will actually save the city millions of dollars.
Finally, Intro. 1079 simply allows the Department of Investigation to have oversight of the Police Department. Almost all city agencies have inspectors general, as do federal departments like the Central Intelligence Agency and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Those agencies are not held back by inspectors general, and the NYPD will not be either.
I have enormous respect for the work of the NYPD, and I would never vote for a law that would put New Yorkers in harm’s way or allow crime levels to increase. On the contrary, I supported these bills because I believe they will make our city safer for all residents.