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NYPD union sues City Council over anti-profiling bill

Stephon Johnson | 10/24/2013, 5:24 p.m.
In a last-minute effort to claim the right to still profile, the police union is taking the New York City ...
Stop and frisk, Occupy protestors branded by NYPD

In a last-minute effort to claim the right to still profile, the police union is taking the New York City Council to court over the Community Safety Act (CSA).

The Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association (PBA) sued the City Council last week over the part of the CSA that makes it easier to file anti-discrimination and racial profiling suits against the New York Police Department. The union, like New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, said the law is too vague and leaves police officers having to guess at the right way to do their jobs.

In an op-ed written for the New York Post, PBA President Patrick Lynch said the key to better policing and building relationships with the community isn’t through the CSA, it’s through increasing the number of officers on the streets and eliminating quotas.

“The NYPD is understaffed,” wrote Lynch. “Over the past 14 years, while the city’s population has grown and police officers’ counterterrorism duties and other responsibilities have increased dramatically, budget cuts have depleted the department’s ranks by nearly 7,000 uniformed members.

“In budget after budget, the current administration and City Council have reduced head count by attrition and slashed recruiting targets, even as the overall city workforce has grown during the same period,” continued Lynch.

Back in August, the New York City Council overrode Bloomberg’s veto of the CSA in a 39-10 vote, overturning the veto on the creation of a permanent inspector general for the NYPD and a 34-15 vote overriding the mayor’s veto on a bill that would allow racial profiling lawsuits to be filed in state court. Bloomberg filed a lawsuit similar to the PBA’s last month.

New York City Council Member Jumaane Williams, one of the co-sponsors of the CSA, released a statement expressing disappointment over the PBA’s decision to sue and deny what the courts have already decided is law.

“Instead of holding the residents of New York City in a perpetual state of confusion with regard to stop-and-frisk, the Association should join us in helping the city move forward so that residents will finally be assured that they will not be profiled,” stated Williams. “We cannot let this lawsuit obscure what has been working: targeted efforts by the NYPD to deter crime in our communities, along with increased community engagement. In fact, according to the mayor’s office, there were no reported killings between October 7 and October 13, which is the longest killing-free period since January.”

Compared to this time last year, murders in the city have decreased 26 percent (more than 90 murders in 2013). This time in the year 1990, there were over 2,000.

“In review of the mayor’s 12 years in office, there is no evidence to support his contention that killings will rise as a result of decreases in stop-and-frisk,” said Williams.

A spokesperson for the group Communities United for Police Reform also expressed disappointment over the PBA’s lawsuit and said the NYPD is moving in the wrong direction.

“It would be more productive for NYPD unions to join the City Council and New Yorkers in working towards positive solutions and police-community relationships, rather than continuing to fight a losing battle against ensuring all New Yorkers are afforded equal civil rights,” said Communities United for Police Reform spokesperson Joo-Hyun Kang.

Williams feels that the NYPD is creating unnecessary tension with the community and needs to come to a new way of policing that the courts have agreed upon. 

“The problem is not the remedies established by the Community Safety Act,” said Williams in his statement. “The problem is the persistent bias-based profiling which has bred distrust among those that the NYPD are sworn to protect and serve. I strongly encourage PBA’s leadership to stop fanning the flames of division in pursuit membership votes, and instead work with us to implement reforms that will rebuild trust between police and our communities.”