Just One Vote

All it will take is a single vote.

If one member of the city council will change his yes vote on the controversial plan to impose more outside oversight on the New York Police Department, then the city council will fall short in its attempt to override the mayor’s veto.

Though we have taken serious issue with some of Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s positions over the years, we must commend him for vetoing the well-intentioned but misguided plan to create an outside watchdog for the department and more latitude for lawsuits claiming discriminatory policing.

As we pointed out when the legislation was first introduced in March, the NYPD already has an excellent oversight structure which includes an Internal Affairs Bureau and the Civilian Complaint Review Board. Last year, the CCRB was given wide new powers to prosecute officers in misconduct cases.

No police department in America has more oversight than the NYPD, and its intelligence investigations are subject to the Federal court-supervised Handschu accord. Each of five separately elected district attorneys has authority to investigate the NYPD, as does each of two United States Attorneys, not to mention the New York State Attorney General, along with the independent Civilian Complaint Review Board and the Mayor’s Commission on Police Corruption.

The NYPD devotes about the same number of personnel to oversight as it does to counterterrorism — approximately 1,000 — comprising the nation’s most robust and effective Internal Affairs Bureau. In addition, there are inspectional units throughout the department.

Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly has done a masterful job in leading the efforts to keep New York City safe. Along with all the members of the Police Department, he deserves our gratitude and support. Kelly and Bloomberg have put forth persuasive arguments as to why the measures in this piece of legislation would undermine safety by deluging the department with lawsuits and inquiries. Officers would be hesitant to act for fear of coming under scrutiny, thus significantly weakening policing techniques that have successfully cut crime rates in recent years.

The council now has one month to try to override the veto. Let us hope that on the day it will make that attempt, at least one of those who voted for this bill will either have reconsidered … or perhaps taken the day off.