Activists speak on Quinn not acknowledging race in Community Safety Act

STEPHON JOHNSON Amsterdam News Staff | 5/9/2013, 12:30 p.m.
Critics of Council Speaker and New York City mayoral candidate Christine Quinn expressed disappointment and...
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Critics of Council Speaker and New York City mayoral candidate Christine Quinn expressed disappointment and disapproval after she refused to support parts of the Community Safety Act that would ban racial profiling.

While supporting the measures in the bills that included increasing the number of police officers, expanding use of mobile cameras and developing an app to alert police in the area of wrongdoing, Quinn didn't support the measure that would ban racial, religious and gender identity profiling. The council speaker said that while she doesn't support racial profiling, she's afraid that the new measure would open up the New York Police Department to more lawsuits.

Hazel Dukes, president of the NAACP New York State Conference, immediately spoke her piece on Quinn's actions.

"We stand here, yet again, asking our leaders to stand up for justice and what's right for all New Yorkers," said Hazel M. Dukes in a statement. "And yet again, we are met with adversity. We cannot allow politics to stand in the way of justice. New York City's elected officials cannot continue to support policies that promote racial profiling."

National Action Network President the Rev. Al Sharpton followed suit.

"I am disappointed that Speaker Quinn has chosen not to include racial profiling as part of proposed legislation at a time when we are dealing with profiling on the rise after the Boston Marathon bombing," said Sharpton. "New York and New Jersey are the places where the term profiling was born, and it sends a terrible signal nationally and a worse one locally to not have it part of the legislation. No candidate should be taken seriously if they don't take racial profiling seriously."

In the latest Quinnipiac University poll, New York City voters supported the creation of an inspector general for the New York Police Department by a 66 percent to 25 percent margin. Eighty-eight percent of New Yorkers polled didn't believe it would make the city less safe and the majority opposes the NYPD's stop-and-frisk policy.

Joo-Hyun Kang, spokesperson for Communities United for Police Reform, remained glad that something addressing police conduct would be passed in the council but feels that it needs more teeth.

"While we applaud Speaker Quinn for supporting the establishment of an inspector general for the NYPD, we are deeply disappointed that she does not support legislation to protect New Yorkers from being unjustly profiled by the police," said Kang. "New Yorkers need to know that the police can't treat people differently because of their race, sexual orientation, immigration status or other protected categories-and that requires passing this legislation.

While advocating the creation of an NYPD inspector general position, 1199SEIU Healthcare Workers East Political Director Kevin Finnegan stated that people need the ability bring up lawsuits against the NYPD, no matter the circumstances.

"Discriminatory profiling by the police doesn't work, wastes resources, violates civil rights and distracts from solving and preventing crime," stated Finnegan. "We need both an inspector general to safeguard against unfair police practices, and also the ability for individual plaintiffs to bring suits against policies that discriminate on the basis of race, religion, age, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, immigration status or other protected categories."

Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, said that the NYPD needed "wholesale reform" and her organization wasn't giving up without a fight over racial profiling.

"While it is disappointing that the speaker will not support a strong ban against profiling by the NYPD, we will continue to press for a council vote on both the anti-profiling bill and the inspector general bill, which both enjoy overwhelming majority support in the City Council," said Lieberman.