Police Reform Advocates say Bloomberg Misrepresenting Bills’ Threats

20130624 101054 Police Reform Advocates say Bloomberg Misrepresenting Bills Threats

Councilman Jumaane Williams speaking before the rally.

A fiery rally in support of NYPD reform legislation was the latest stage in the heated dispute between Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the City Council, only one hour before the outgoing mayor held his own press conference condemning the measures. But despite Mr. Bloomberg’s passionate arguments, a lead sponsor of the act sees an ulterior motive.

“My personal belief is that for some reason he believes this is a challenge to his legacy. That is the only possible thing I can believe,” Councilman Jumaane Williams told Politicker. “The truth be told, these bills don’t even move the needle as much as we want to. They don’t move the needle as much as it should be moved … So the only reason that I can believe is that, for some reason, he still believes he’s going to go down as one of the best mayors in history.”

The rally on the steps of City Hall drew dozens of chanting activists attempting to show the controversial legislation, which would create an NYPD inspector general and strengthen racial profiling laws, has ardent grassroots support.

The City Council will be voting later today on an historic motion to discharge the bills, which were introduced as part of the Community Safety Act, from the Public Safety Committee, where they have been bottled up by the committee’s chair, Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. The legislation, meant to address complaints against the NYPD’s use of stop-and-frisk and alleged discrimination against the city’s LGBT and homeless communities during stops, has been loudly opposed by both Mr. Vallone and the Bloomberg administration. Mr. Bloomberg has argued the bills, if put into law, would hamper the police’s ability to combat crime and lead to more deaths.

The votes today will mark the first time motions to discharge have ever been used under City Council Speaker Christine Quinn’s tenure.

But another bill sponsor, Brooklyn Councilman Brad Lander, argued opponents of the legislation were misreading its language and stirring up unnecessary fear.

“We can and we must and we will keep New Yorkers safe without profiling our neighbors for aggressive policing based on their race, their religion or their sexual orientation,” he said. “It really is that simple. You’re going to hear a lot of bluster later today, things you know are false about descriptions, things you know are false about two-headed commissioners.”

Countering another Bloomberg claim that the legislation would confuse the NYPD’s chain of command, Mr. Lander added that the bill “will establish an NYPD inspector general, not somebody who can set police policy, but somebody who can conduct investigations when there’s reason to believe surveillance is being conducted based on religious identity or ethnic identity and not based on leads. It’s that simple.”

Kirsten John Foy, a candidate for City Council in Brooklyn who was arrested two years ago with Mr. Williams at the West Indian Day Parade, put Mr. Lander’s argument in starker terms.

“The City of New York is tired of the dictatorship,” Mr. Foy said, gesturing to City Hall behind him. “The City of New York is tired of the people in this building saying to us, no matter how loudly you cry, no matter how much blood is spilled, no matter how many of you are violated, we don’t care. Well guess what? The City of New York is here to say we don’t care what you say now!”

Before the press conference began, Mr. Vallone coincidentally walked up the steps of City Hall, inches from where the rally was setting up.

“You got to protect New Yorkers!” one of the activists shouted at Mr. Vallone.

Mr. Vallone walked on, quietly entering City Hall.