U.S.

Mayor Bloomberg sues NY City Council over curbs on stop-and-frisk

Bill that prompted suit expanded definition of racial profiling, gives New Yorkers right to sue police in state court

Bloomberg said the City Council has no business passing laws that could be intended for the entire state.
Andrew Burton/Getty Images

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg sued the City Council Tuesday in a bid to overturn a law that aims to curb the police department's use of its controversial stop-and-frisk policy.

The council's votes came less than two weeks after a federal judge ruled unconstitutional the department's stop-and-frisk policy, in which officers stop people in high-crime areas suspected of engaging in criminal activity. The policy was thrown out on the grounds that it disproportionately targets minorities.

The bill that prompted Bloomberg's lawsuit expanded the definition of racial profiling and gives New Yorkers who believe they were targeted the right to sue police in state court.

The council reaffirmed their passage of the measure 10 days ago, along with another bill creating an independent watchdog to monitor the New York Police Department, overriding the mayor's veto, despite his warnings that the legislation would threaten public safety.

The bill that prompted Bloomberg's lawsuit expanded the definition of racial profiling and gives New Yorkers who believe they were targeted the right to sue police in state court.

The lawsuit, filed in state Supreme Court in Manhattan, asserted the bill was invalid because it is superseded by the state's criminal procedure law, or CPL, which governs the standards and procedures that police officers must follow.

"The CPL preempts the field of criminal procedure legislation and prevents local legislatures, including the council, from passing local laws in this area," the lawsuit said.

The two bills passed by the City Council and federal court ruling amounted to a sharp defeat for Bloomberg, who has defended stop-and-frisk as vital to the city's dramatic reduction in crime during the past two decades.

Bloomberg is set to leave office at the end of the year at the close of his third term as mayor.

Mayoral candidates weigh in

City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, a Democrat running to succeed Bloomberg as mayor, voted against the racial profiling bill.

Quinn initially voted for the other bill that created an outside inspector general for the NYPD with subpoena power. On Tuesday she defended the City Council's right to legislate changes to the stop-and-frisk policy.

"Mayor Bloomberg can sue all he wants, but at the end of the day, we will successfully beat back this ill-advised litigation and ensure the prerogative of the city council to reform stop-and-frisk," she said in an emailed statement.

Bill de Blasio, the new Democratic frontrunner according to a Quinnipiac University survey released Tuesday, said "racial profiling is not good policing" when addressing the stop-and-frisk policy issue during a 90-minute candidates debate Tuesday night.

"A quota system is not good policing," de Blasio said, later adding "we will not continue stop-and-frisk the way [NYPD Commissioner] Ray Kelly's had it." 

Another candidate, former Congressman Anthony Weiner, proposed that police officers wear lapel pin cameras to record their stops for training purposes and to provide protection for officers.  

Michael Cardozo, the city's top lawyer, said in a statement that the lawsuit was necessary to ensure the council did not overstep its authority.

"Local legislative bodies should not be passing laws affecting the regulation of law enforcement activity in this way," he said. "This is a matter governed by the state legislature."

The council originally passed the laws in June with a barely veto-proof majority, and Bloomberg vetoed them in July, challenging the council to override him.

The city has also appealed the federal ruling on stop-and-frisk from U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin, who called the strategy "indirect racial profiling" and appointed a monitor to oversee reforms to the street stops. The monitor, former chief city attorney Peter Zimroth, will work separately from the NYPD inspector general.

Civil rights advocates have hailed the new laws and federal court ruling as needed oversight. Bloomberg says they will interfere with an effective police department.

Besides responding to the outcry over stop-and-frisk, the new laws were propelled by concern about the NYPD's extensive surveillance of Muslims, as disclosed in stories by The Associated Press.

City Councilman Brad Lander, a Democrat and sponsor of the measures, said Tuesday he and his fellow council members are "well within our legal authority -- and our responsibility -- to protect the civil rights of New Yorkers."

Al Jazeera and Reuters

Find Al Jazeera America on your TV

Get email updates from Al Jazeera America

Sign up for our weekly newsletter

Get email updates from Al Jazeera America

Sign up for our weekly newsletter