The way the election-year rhetoric is flying over the NYPD you'd think we're back in the Giuliani era.
The fight over two police monitoring bills intensified yesterday with Mayor Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly both ripping two proposed pieces of legislation that would create an inspector general and allow New Yorkers to file racial profiling lawsuits in state court.
"Take heart, al Qaeda wannabes, because the City Council has found a way to undermine our partners,'' a not-so-understated Kelly said at a press conference at One Police Plaza.
The Post's Bob McManus blasted City Council Speaker Christine Quinn for allowing both bills to come to a likely vote later this week, saying this marks her evolution "from clear-headed paladin of public safety to just another attention-mongering NYPD ankle-biter seeking higher office."
Interestingly, Bloomberg avoided criticizing Quinn, the candidate he apparently dislikes the least in the campaign to succeed him in City Hall. For the record, Quinn supports an inspector general but opposes the racial profiling bill saying it would create "a real risk that a multitude of state court judges issue rulings that could take control of police policy away from the mayor and commissioner."
Opponents of the inspector general bill make the same argument as well as noting that there are already plenty of monitors over the NYPD including a massive Internal Affairs bureau and the Civilian Complaint Review Board. While all that may be true, the numbers behind the police's stop-and-frisk tactic are giving their critics plenty to chew on: more than 85% of those who are stopped are either black or Latino, and nearly 90% have been released without being charged. It's something more reminiscent of Vienna after the war than New York City in 2013.
It's not clear to me if this will become a defining issue in the mayor's race – with all of the Democratic candidates on similar pages by decrying or expressing concerns about NYPD tactics. While some of the candidates support the legislation – and Justice Department oversight of the tactic – and some don't, the gradations on the issue among them are gray. Meanwhile, a federal judge – who appears sympathetic to the critics – is going to rule on the constitutionality of the practice later this year. And should crime inch back up – for whatever reasons – the rhetoric will only get hotter.