The City Council’s powerful leader on Wednesday announced her opposition to a measure to rein in the New York Police Department’s use of its stop-and-frisk practice but, for the first time, said she would allow a vote anyway.
City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who also is the front-running Democratic candidate for mayor, said in a speech that she opposes the measure because it would give people more latitude to sue if they believe they were stopped because of their race.
“I believe these risks could lead to a fragmentation of oversight and policy-making for the police department that could be detrimental to the safety of our city,” she said in a speech at Hunter College. “And just as importantly, it could hamstring individual police officers and make them fearful of the decisions they have to make on a moment’s notice.”
The proposal is the most hotly debated among several to change how police conduct hundreds of thousands of street stops. Supporters say it would put teeth into prohibitions on racial profiling. Critics say it would drown the city in lawsuits.
As speaker, Quinn generally controls what proposals come to a vote, though the measure’s sponsors, Councilmen Brad Lander and Jumaane Williams, said they planned to press for a vote on the proposal which, with more than 30 sponsors, has enough support to pass.
“New York City must turn the page on discriminatory policing,” Lander and Williams said.
Quinn has never before allowed legislation she opposes to come to a vote, even if it has the support of a majority of Council members. But she said that she did not plan to block a vote on the stop-and-frisk bill.
“I understand that this is a very important issue for a lot of people so I don’t want to stand in the way of there being a vote,” she told reporters after the speech, according to Politicker. “And whatever happens, happens.”
The Council proposals also include a Quinn-supported plan to create an inspector general for the police.
The issue has been a pressure point for Quinn, as she tries to balance the civil rights advocates’ push against the objections of police and their popular commissioner, Ray Kelly. Quinn has said she’d like Kelly to stay on if she becomes mayor next year.
“Anyone who doesn’t recognize the incredible work that Ray Kelly has done as police commissioner,” she said, “is simply out of touch with the reality of life in New York City.”