NYers Approve of NYPD; Want Outside Watchdog

NEW YORK (AP) -

City voters overwhelmingly support a plan to put the New York Police Department under the scrutiny of an outside watchdog, even though they give police good marks overall, according to a poll released Thursday.

Two-thirds of respondents favored the proposal for an NYPD inspector general, while a quarter opposed it in the Quinnipiac University poll. It comes as lawmakers hone the plan for what’s expected to be a “yes” vote.

The measure would create a monitor to look at the procedures and policies of the nation’s biggest police department. While the legislation is still being drafted, plans so far have envisioned giving the inspector general the power to subpoena documents and witnesses.

Civil rights and minority advocates applaud the plan, spurred by concerns about the department’s widespread use of the practice known as stop-and-frisk. The poll shows particularly strong support for the idea among black and Hispanic voters, though a majority of white voters back it as well.

Police officials and Mayor Michael Bloomberg say the force already gets enough oversight from various agencies, internal investigators and court guidelines, though none have the policy-scrutinizing mandate that the inspector general would.

“This is a dumb idea … and it’s dangerous. We’re playing with people’s lives,” Bloomberg said after an unrelated news conference Thursday.

Bloomberg has said he’ll veto the proposal if it passes the City Council. Speaker Christine Quinn has said lawmakers will override a veto if he does.

While voters like the inspector general idea and disapprove of stop-and-frisk by a margin of 51 to 43 percent, they have positive views overall of the department and its leader. Some 60 percent approve of how police are doing their jobs, and 65 percent like how Commissioner Ray Kelly is doing his, the poll showed.