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City Council, Mayor's Lawyer Spar Over Need For NYPD Reforms

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The City Council began weighing on Wednesday rules to tighten controls on the New York City Police Department, including appointing an independent inspector general to monitor the force.

In a series of high-profile hearings, council members also discussed possible reforms of the NYPD's controversial stop-and-frisk policy.

One measure would require officers to tell people when they have a right to refuse a search and another would require an officer give his or her name to the person stopped.

Police Commissioner Ray Kelly did not attend the hearing, and some council members disliked his absence.

"Commissioner Kelly challenged this council back in March to provide solutions that would make our community safer. We believe today's hearings addresses part of that solution and it's a shame that neither he nor his department are here to discuss it. And the administration unfortunately has a tendency not to engage in these discussions, an administration that can apparently do no wrong," said Brooklyn Councilman Jumaane Williams.

While lawmakers feel the changes are necessary, the Bloomberg administration, represented at the hearing by the mayor's lawyer, says the legislation wouldn't even be legal.

"These are attempts to change the criminal procedure law as regard to New York City and the council does not have the ability to make that change," said Counselor to the Mayor Michael Best. "We believe that there is already sufficient oversight of the police department."

The NYPD has been accused of unfairly targeting minorities, but Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the police commissioner say stop-and-frisk keeps the crime rate low.

Last year, while more than 680,000 people were stopped, only 12 percent of those stops resulted in arrests or tickets.

The practice is the subject of a class action lawsuit, which a federal judge gave the go-ahead for on Wednesday.

Critics of stop-and-frisk say the practice is abused.

"Go into that particular pocket to determine whether or not that is a weapon. That's what it says, not to frisk everything and tell everybody to take everything you have out of your pockets," said Manhattan Councilman Robert Jackson.

Many black and Latino New Yorkers say it is the color of their skin that leads to stops.

"Because I am black, pretty much. I mean, I had a hoodie on, I look like I supposedly have 'furtive movement,'" said a New Yorker who was previously frisked by police.

The City Council and Speaker Christine Quinn are now intent on changing the practice.

"Although we have made progress in the area of reforms, clearly our work is not done," Quinn.

On top of Wednesday's hearing, the council will hold public sessions on the stop-and-frisk policy in both Brooklyn and Queens later this month.

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