City Council Speaker and mayoral hopeful Christine Quinn came out against a bill Wednesday that would prohibit the Police Department from profiling on the basis of race, religion and gender—but for the very first time in her tenure, said she would nonetheless allow the controversial plan to go to vote.
During a speech outlining her public safety agenda on the Upper East Side, Ms. Quinn said she could not support the bill because of a provision that would allow individuals to sue the department if they believed they were wrongly targeted.
“I believe this presents a real risk,” said Ms. Quinn, who described a worst-case situation in which multiple state court judges issued confusing, overlapping rulings, wresting policy decisions away from the mayor and Police Commissioner.
“I believe these risks could lead to a fragmentation of oversight and policy-making for the Police Department that could be detrimental to the safety of our city,” she said, warning that it might also “hamstring individual police officers and make them fearful of the decisions they have to make on a moment’s notice, putting both their safety and the public’s safety at risk.”
The argument is nearly identical to those that have been used against a companion bill to install an NYPD Inspector General—which Ms. Quinn supports.
Ms. Quinn has a long history of preventing legislation she opposes from coming to vote, even it has the support of a majority of council members. The tactic has been criticized by fellow members as well as good government groups and Ms. Quinn’s mayoral rivals, who have been increasingly vocal in their attacks.
But Quinn said that, this time, she did not plan to block a vote on the bill, which currently has more than 30 sponsors, supporters said.
“I understand that this is a very important issue for a lot of people so I don’t want to stand in the way of there being a vote. And whatever happens, happens,” she told reporters after the speech, vowing not to strong-arm members into dropping their support behind the scenes.
“This is not going to be a twisting arms kind of a situation,” she said, adding: “I think it’s very likely it could pass.”
If it does, it would be the very first time in Ms. Quinn’s tenure as speaker that a bill would pass the council with her “no” vote, her spokesman Jamie McShane confirmed.
Asked about her decision, Ms. Quinn said the change did not represented a larger policy change, but simply the fact that, for the first time in her tenure, it was clear a deal on a bill with wide support could not be reached.
Still, proponents of the bill expressed their regret.
“We are deeply disappointed that the speaker will not support a strong ban against profiling by the NYPD,” NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman said in a statement. “But we expect that the anti-profiling bill, like the Inspector General bill, which both enjoy the overwhelming majority of support in the City Council, will get the vote it is entitled to.”
The announcement came during a speech at Hunter College’s Roosevelt House that Ms. Quinn titled her “Blueprint for a Safe and Secure New York.
Among the proposals, Ms. Quinn called for the hiring of an extra 1,600 police officers over the next three years to boost the department’s shrinking ranks.
In the wake of the Boston Marathon terror attacks, she called for a complete review of infrastructure, suggesting replacing metal trash cans with hoop-and-bag-style receptacles in subways and near other high-profile targets to limit potential shrapnel. And she suggested installing 1,000 new mobile security cameras, which could be moved from place-to-place.
The high-tech goodies didn’t stop there. She called for equipping police officers with smartphones and said the city should create a “panic button” for smart phones that could be used by crime victims who aren’t in a position to call the police.
“With the push of a button on your phone, you could request assistance from a nearby officer who will locate you using GPS technology,” she said—not mentioning the potential risk of unintentional “butt dials.”
And to increase the eyes on the street, she proposed a new “Text Something” program that would allow New Yorkers to report suspicious activity to the NYPD via photo or text, and proposed expanding basic counter-terrorism training to the Department of Sanitation, the Department of Transportation and the MTA.
She also slapped her Democratic mayoral rivals who have vowed to oust Police Commissioner Ray Kelly if they win.
“Anyone who doesn’t recognize the incredible work that Ray Kelly has done as Police Commissioner,” she said, “is simply out of touch with the reality of life in New York City.”