Perhaps jealous that the State Senate worked until 6 a.m. on Saturday, the City Council decided to burn the midnight oil today and didn’t get done its work done until close to 3 a.m.
Passing a $70 billion budget would usually be big news from the marathon session but the fight over two police monitoring bills stole the spotlight. Opponents of the legislation continued to act as if the city will instantly turn into needle park if the NYPD bills become law.
“Children will die,” warned an apocalyptic-sounding Peter Vallone Jr., who had previously tried to block the legislation from coming to the floor. Both bills passed – setting up a veto battle with Mayor Bloomberg that he will lose unless he can get some lawmakers to flip-flop and not support an override.
Ironically, Vallone’s father was in the middle of a similar battle more than 20 years ago when he was City Council Speaker. Mayor David Dinkins was pushing for a Civilian Complaint Review Board for the NYPD – a move bitterly opposed by the police union and others, including Rudy Giuliani. With the help of Vallone Sr. in the Council, the board was created and police today are still somehow able to do their jobs, bringing crime to basement-low levels that haven’t been since Robert Wagner lived in Gracie Mansion.
The two bills now in question will create an inspector general for the NYPD and allow New Yorkers to take racial profiling bills to state court – moves that supporters say will help improve police-community relations while also curtailing the wholesale use of the stop-and-frisk tactic.
On the other side, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly says that the profiling bill could force the department to remove surveillance cameras in minority neighborhoods, an argument that seems like a bit of a stretch. But there’s been a lot of stretching going on both sides of this very loud fight.
Creating another layer of bureaucracy for the NYPD likely won’t make a beat cop from Long Island be any nicer to a kid in East New York but it probably also won’t make us worry that The Bronx is going to start burning tomorrow. With its weekly Comstat meetings and its Sabermetric approach to crime, the police department has come too far to be stopped in its tracks by an inspector general or a frivolous lawsuit. This fight, though, illustrates that tensions with the NYPD are on the rise – and it’s something that the next mayor – and not a early-morning City Council session – will have to work on tamping down.