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NYC City Council overrides Bloomberg on police measures

By Julia Lull, CNN
August 23, 2013 -- Updated 0555 GMT (1355 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Christine Quinn is speaker of the NYC City Council, also a mayoral candidate
  • She co-authored a bill to add an inspector general to the NYPD
  • Amid NYC's stop-and-frisk controversy, the bill passed but Mayor Bloomberg vetoed
  • Quinn and other City Council member overrode that veto Thursday

New York (CNN) -- City Council Speaker Christine Quinn -- one of the candidates leading New York City's hotly contested mayoral race -- won a major victory over outgoing Mayor Michael Bloomberg with the council's override on a mayoral veto of a Quinn bill establishing an inspector general for the NYPD.

This decision Thursday comes near the end of a summer in which allegations of racial profiling and racial tensions have been an undercurrent in cases and controversies across the county including in New York, where stop-and-frisk policies by police triggered intense political debate and a court case.

NYPD tactics and policies have pitted some big names against each other, mainly Bloomberg vs. Quinn, and have been a leading issue in the mayoral primary coming up on September 10.

Originally introduced by the New York City Council in June, the bill that Quinn co-authored adds an inspector general who will have the power to investigate, review, and make recommendations regarding NYPD operations, policies and programs. A complaint bureau will also be added that allows the public to report any issues or deficiencies relating to the NYPD.

Bloomberg vetoed that bill and another one dealing with racial profiling in July, claiming that current police practices -- including stop-and-frisk -- have contributed to a decreased crime rate in recent years. In a statement released after Thursday's vote overriding his veto, Bloomberg declared that the two measures will make it harder for police officers to do their job and could actually make crime worse in minority neighborhoods, where crime rates are already high.

After the veto override, Quinn said, "Today's vote is an historic step in the right direction to bring much needed reform to the city's stop-and-frisk program and begin building greater bridges between our police department and communities of color."

City Council members also knocked down Bloomberg's veto of the other bill, which would prohibit biased-based profiling, and provide a pathway for those who feel they have been wronged to seek legal redress. Quinn voted against the passage of that measure Thursday, reportedly because of concerns over one provision in the bill.

The NYPD's stop-and-frisk policy was targeting in a federal class-action lawsuit, and earlier this month U.S. District Judge Shira A. Scheindlin ruled that changes must be made to the policy because it unlawfully targets blacks and Hispanics.

Scheindlin found that the police department's policy violated plaintiffs' Fourth Amendment rights barring unreasonable searches, based on statistics showing police made at least 200,000 stops from 2004 to June 2012 without reasonable suspicion.

She also found evidence of racial profiling, violating plaintiffs' 14th Amendment rights guaranteeing equal protection.

New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly called Scheindlin's finding of racial profiling "disturbing and offensive."

"We do not engage in racial profiling. It is prohibited by law," Kelly said earlier this month. "We train our officers that they need reasonable suspicion to make a stop, and I can assure you that race is never a reason to conduct a stop."

In his statement Thursday after his vetoes were trumped, Bloomberg said, "Our Administration has zero tolerance for racial profiling. (The anti-profiling measure in the council) is not aimed at stopping racial profiling, which is already against the law. It's aimed at winning votes. It is a dangerous piece of legislation and we will ask the courts to step in before innocent people are harmed."

The changes in the two measures are set to take effect on January 1.

CNN's Chris Kokenes, Chelsea J. Carter, and Jason Hanna contributed to this report.

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