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Council overrides mayor's veto, OK's NYPD watchdog

Posted: August 23, 2013 8:00 a.m.
Updated: August 23, 2013 8:00 a.m.
 

NEW YORK (AP) — The City Council on Thursday overrode Mayor Michael Bloomberg's vetoes to create a watchdog for the nation's biggest police department and make it easier to file profiling claims against officers amid applause from supporters and angry warnings from opponents.

Bloomberg, who had slapped down the legislation earlier this summer, said the new oversight at the New York Police Department will make it "harder for our police officers to protect New Yorkers and continue to drive down crime."

"Make no mistake: The communities that will feel the most negative impacts of these bills will be minority communities across our city, which have been the greatest beneficiaries of New York City's historic crime reductions," he said in a statement.

But proponents see the oversight as a check on a police force that's come under scrutiny for its heavy use of a tactic known as stop and frisk and its extensive surveillance of Muslims, which was revealed in stories by The Associated Press.

A packed spectators' gallery erupted in cheers when the council's vote was announced. Later, supporters exchanged hugs outside City Hall.

"Today marks a monumental civil rights victory for New Yorkers," Councilmen Jumaane D. Williams and Brad Lander, legislation sponsors, said in a statement. "New Yorkers now know that police officers will now 'serve and protect' all New York City residents, regardless of race, ethnicity, and sexual orientation."

The profiling bill passed with the minimum votes necessary, 34-15, while the inspector general proposal passed 39-10.

The measures mark the most aggressive legislative effort in years to put new checks on the NYPD. The vote came less than two weeks after U.S. District Court Judge Shira Scheindlin's order for an outside monitor to reform stop and frisk, a practice she said the department had used in a way that violated the rights of hundreds of thousands of black and Hispanic men. The city is appealing.

The lawsuit-related component of the legislation passed in June with just the 34 votes needed to override a veto. City Council Speaker Christine Quinn opposed the lawsuit component but favored the inspector general proposal.

Civil rights groups and minority advocates had pushed for the legislation, propelled by complaints about stop and frisk and the department's surveillance of Muslims.

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