Tuesday, June 25th, 2013 — Good Morning, Stay Safe
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2 Bills on Police Oversight Advance Amid Objections From Bloomberg
By J. DAVID GOODMAN — Tuesday, June 25th, 2013 ‘The New York Times’
Shortly before a key vote on two policing bills in the City Council, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg stood at Police Headquarters, flanked by Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly, a dozen other law enforcement officials and Robert M. Morgenthau, the 93-year-old former Manhattan district attorney.
With the mayor playing a solemn M.C. for nearly an hour, each man spoke forcefully against the bills on Monday, warning of the dangers they would pose to the city — some invoking Al Qaeda, others the bad old days of rampant crime — and urging council members to vote no.
Their pleas went unheeded for now.
With the support of Speaker Christine C. Quinn, the Council overwhelmingly approved twin motions — each by a vote of 41 to 8 — to bypass a committee where the bills had stalled and bring them up for a full hearing and vote as early as Wednesday.
The so-called discharge vote was the first of its kind in New York City since 1989. It marked the most significant action yet on legislation, known as the Community Safety Act, that has become a contentious issue in the race for mayor.
While both motions passed by the same margin, the two measures, sponsored by Councilmen Jumaane D. Williams and Brad Lander, Democrats of Brooklyn, enjoy varying degrees of support on the Council and among the mayoral candidates.
One bill, to create an independent inspector general to monitor the Police Department, has a veto-proof majority and the strong support of Ms. Quinn. The other — a measure commonly referred to as the racial-profiling bill — would allow individuals to bring cases against the police in state court after an action they deemed to be the result of bias. Supporters of the profiling bill were less certain that it had enough votes to override a mayoral veto, and Ms. Quinn has said she does not support it.
For Ms. Quinn, who is seeking the Democratic nomination for mayor, the bills present a tricky balancing act. Many of the city’s Democratic voters are opposed to the perceived excesses of the Police Department’s stop-and-frisk tactics, which the bills are meant to address. Yet fully embracing the measures would place her directly at odds with Mr. Bloomberg and Mr. Kelly, whom she has said she wants to keep as police commissioner if she is elected.
In April, Ms. Quinn said she would not stand in the way of a vote; on Monday, she voted “aye” on both measures. Indeed, Mr. Williams and Mr. Lander thanked Ms. Quinn’s staff for helping to shepherd the bills to the floor, an indication of her behind-the-scenes involvement, her office said.
“It’s the speaker’s decision to allow this to happen,” said Peter F. Vallone Jr., Democrat of Queens, the chairman of the public safety committee, whose opposition to introducing the racial-profiling bill to the full Council set up Monday’s discharge vote.
Councilman James S. Oddo of Staten Island sounded a dissonant note, saying the procedural vote was “a sad day” for the institution. Such a vote, he said, diminished the power of the speaker as a check on the mayor.
When her vote came, Ms. Quinn responded by saying, “I proudly vote aye.”
In his earlier remarks on Monday, Mr. Bloomberg warned that the legislation would create an atmosphere in which the Police Department could not respond effectively to crime. He cited how, after a recent spate of shootings in Brooklyn, Mr. Kelly had redirected resources to hot-spot areas. He then said that under the proposed legislation, such action — stepped-up policing of housing projects, a focus on gangs — could open the department up to lawsuits.
That followed by the release by the mayor’s office of a kind of CliffsNotes for how the police would be hamstrung by the bills. Shortly after, supporters of the legislation added their own commentary layered on top, annotations commenting on other annotations.
“False!” it shouted at the suggestion by the mayor’s office that under the profiling bill policing high-crime neighborhoods could be challenged in court because many such areas are disproportionately minority.
“Scandal!” it alleged in response to a claim that a “gang member” would be allowed to lodge complaints against the Police Department under the proposed inspector general.
It was a reflection of how the day began, with dueling news conferences and increasingly brittle claims and counterclaims.
Under the scalding sun of the City Hall steps, Mr. Williams needled the mayor and Mr. Kelly, saying civil rights groups and the bill’s supporters “have more faith in our police” than its opponents. He implored them to “please stop the fear mongering and please stop lying.”
An hour later, the mayor stood aside as Mr. Morgenthau, who served for 35 years as the Manhattan district attorney, evoked the dark days of New York’s criminal past, when he said that even the police looked the other way.
“Drug dealers came out to the van in broad daylight and offered to sell me drugs with uniformed police officers standing 20 feet away doing nothing,” he said, recalling a trip to Alphabet City in 1975. “It’s been a long hard fight to get the Police Department where they are today.”
Over committee opposition, the Council forces a vote on police
By Azi Paybarah — Monday, June 24th, 2013; 3:46 p.m. ‘Capital New York’ / New York, NY
The City Council voted overwhelmingly voted in favor of forcing a vote on two controversial bills that were blocked in committee, in a rare procedural move without precedent in City Council Speaker Christine Quinn's eight-year tenure.
The vote, on a "motion to discharge," relates to two police-related bills strongly opposed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly and the Democratic chairman of the Council's public safety committee, Peter Vallone Jr.
The motions were supported by Quinn, who said she supports one bill, which would create an office of inspector general to watch over the police department, but does not support a second bill, which would open up the police department and officers to civil lawsuits for alleged racial profiling.
Councilman Jim Gennaro, a Democrat from Kew Gardens, and Peter Koo, a Republican-turned-Democrat from Flushing, joined Vallone and Republicans Jimmy Oddo, Vinnie Ignizio and Eric Ulrich in voting against the motions.
Dan Halloran, a freshman Republican from Bayside who is not seeking re-election, voted in favor of discharging both bills. So did Domenic Recchia, a Democrat from Brooklyn who is term-limited and running for Congress against Republican incumbent Michael Grimm in a district that includes southern Brooklyn and all of Staten Island.
In opposing the bill, Ulrich said the motions were "silly" and said circumventing the committees where these two bills were blocked made a mockery of the process.
"Why bother having committees then?" he said. "Why have a committee process? Why have hearings and a debate when you can just put it on the floor? So at the next stated meeting, I can discharge a bill that bans blue hats if I don't like blue hats. It sounds silly but I can put it put it up for a vote if I wanted to and everybody would have to come here, waste their time and vote on it."
For the record, that's not accurate. Motions to discharge are valid if they are submitted by the prime sponsor of the bill in question along with at least seven other members in support of the motion, a fact later pointed out by Jumaane Williams, a Democrat from Brooklyn who filed today's motions.
Later, Oddo, the minority leader in the Council, opposed both motions and said they weakened the position of Council Speaker, and by extension, the Council.
"If you don't have a central figure to try to keep all of us moving in one direction, how on God's earth can we be a check on the executive? ... So you can wrap yourself in democracy all you want. You are taking another step towards an imperial mayor in this city."
Stop-and-Frisk Reform Takes Circumventing Route
By Kristen Meriwether — Tuesday, June 25th, 2013 ‘The Epoch Times’
NEW YORK—Stop-and-frisk has been a point of contention among minority groups in New York City for much of Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s term, with the number of stops escalating to a high of 610,000 in 2010. Now that tension is spreading, creating rifts among Council members over procedure, and widening the gap between Bloomberg and City Council.
Two bills in City Council aimed at reforming the police practice will be voted on later this week, but the political costs have been high. Intro 1079 proposes introducing an inspector general for the NYPD, and Intro 1080 expands an existing anti biased-based profiling measure.
The bills were originally part of the Community Safety Act, which was introduced in the Council in October 2012 to reform stop and frisk. They have sat dormant because Chairman Peter Vallone Jr. refused to bring them to a vote.
For the first time in City Council history, the 51-member body voted to discharge legislation from a committee without a vote with 41 in favor and eight opposed (and two absent) for each bill.
“I have the dubious distinction of being the only chair in the history of the City Council to be gone around,” Vallone said with a chuckle from City Hall on Monday. “Normally it would be a bad thing, but I consider this a badge of honor.”
Vallone, who wrote an anti-racial profiling bill in 2004, said he had concerns over the language in the bill, which would allow lawsuits against the city if they felt they had been stopped based on race. “It would blow a massive hole in the city budget,” Vallone said.
During the vote to discharge, the focus became less about the merit of the bills, and more about the manner in which the bills had been brought to the floor.
“I think this is a sad day. I think we are undercutting the institution of the Speaker, which means we are undercutting the institution itself,” said Council member Jimmy Oddo, who is the minority leader in the Council and one of only four Republicans. “We have 51 members. It is the most diverse legislature in the country, if not the world. 51 egos. 51 agendas. 51 perspectives. If you don’t have a central figure to try and keep us going in one direction, how on God’s Earth can we be in check to the executive?”
Speaker Quinn, who has come out in support of the inspector general bill, but against the racial profiling bill, voted in favor of discharging both bills.
Eric Ulrich of Queens expressed his dismay at the process, calling it silly. “Why have debate if you are just going to put it on the floor?” Ulrich asked.
“Now the budget is passed, people feel they can do whatever they want and introduce bills, and discharge bills, no matter how ridiculous they are,” Ulrich said, clarifying he thought the two bills were very serious, but the processes was not right.
Council member Oliver Koppell commented that the process was exactly the type of incident the reforms made in 2006 were aiming to fix—allowing a vote on heavily supported bills. Intro 1080 has 34 sponsors, as well as Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, and Intro 1079 has 35 sponsors and the Public Advocate.
Bloomberg has adamantly opposed both bills, citing record low crime as a sign stop-and-frisk is working.
“New Yorkers must have policing that respects everyone’s rights—including everyone’s right to be safe on the streets,” Bloomberg said at a press conference at One Police Plaza on Monday. “What we mustn’t have is what these laws would create: A police department pointlessly hampered by outside intrusion, and recklessly threatened by second-guessing from the courts.
Communities that have been targeted by stop-and-frisk don’t care how the bills pass, or even who supports them. They just want change.
If approved, the inspector general bill would, for the first time in New York City history, create oversight for the NYPD. The FBI, CIA, and even the LAPD, which struggled with police relations during the 1980’s and 1990’s, have inspector generals.
The oversight would be a stepping stone in building trust between communities and the police tasked with keeping them safe.
“Those people are resentful and they doubt the integrity of the department,” said Dr. Delores Jones Brown, director of the John Jay College Center on Race, Crime, and Justice. Jones added the distrust was not just on the streets, but among officers, adding the inspector general would allow for another layer of protection to push back against policies deemed not morally right.
“What creates a great deal of distrust in the community is the feeling that there is no recourse when you are stopped unjustly or brutalized,” said Khary Lazarre-White, co-founder of Brotherhood Sister Sol, a Harlem-based group empowering minority youth through after-school programs, mentoring, and job training. “An independent inspector would allow faith to build up in the public because there is recourse. If there is no recourse, there is anger in every type of police in every situation.”
With over 30 sponsors, the bills are expected to pass the City Council this week, after which the mayor is expected to veto within 30 days. The Council will need 34 votes to override the veto, meaning if all the sponsors continue to support it, it will go into law.
If passed, the biased-based profiling law would not take effect until late fall (90 days after enacted), and the inspector general bill would not take effect until January 1, 2014.
Additional reporting by Joshua Philipp
Harsh Words as Bills to Curb Stop-and-Frisk Proceed
By MICHAEL HOWARD SAUL — Tuesday, June 25th, 2013 ‘The Wall Street Journal’ / New York, NY
The City Council on Monday took a big step toward passing two bills aimed at the New York Police Department's stop-and-frisk tactic, drawing harsh rebukes from Commissioner Raymond Kelly and Mayor Michael Bloomberg during a day of rhetorical clashes on one of the city's burning debates.
For the first time in modern city history, the council voted to bypass a committee chairman and set up two measures for a floor vote: One that would create an NYPD inspector general, and another that would allow people to file claims of racial profiling against the police in state court. Both measures are seen by supporters and opponents as attempts to curb the NYPD's use of the stop-and-frisk tactic.
Mr. Kelly raised another possibility: Potential terrorists would be pleased with the council's action, which he said could hamstring intelligence efforts conducted with foreign governments. "Take heart, al Qaeda wannabes, because the City Council has found a way to undermine our partners," he said.
Mr. Bloomberg said the bills would put the public and police in "real serious danger and could reverse the striking, dramatic and wonderful reduction in crime that this city has experienced."
"The NYPD would be unable to take some of the most basic crime-prevention measures anyone would expect our police to take," he said, adding later that "every tort lawyer is going to buy a new house and a new car right away."
The mayor has vowed to veto both bills, and while they both have at least 33 sponsors, it isn't a sure thing that the council has enough votes to override the mayor's veto. It takes 34 votes to override a veto. The vote on Monday was 41 to 8 to bypass Peter Vallone Jr., the Committee on Public Safety chairman who opposed the bills.
Bloomberg aides said the administration is exploring legal options, should the bills become law.
Supporters called it a historic day. On the steps of City Hall, Council Member Jumaane Williams of Brooklyn, the bills' lead sponsor, accused the mayor and police commissioner of fear-mongering and lying. He and others said the legislation would lead to better policing.
"There is no community that should have to choose between safer streets and better policing," Mr. Williams said. "This is not about anything but equality."
New York City police officers have made more than five million stops—many of which led to frisks—since Mr. Bloomberg took office in 2002. The policy has been the target of intense criticism because more than 85% of those stopped were either black or Latino, and nearly 90% were released without being charged.
The polarizing tactic has generated three class-action lawsuits and a federal judge, Shira Scheindlin, is to decide in the coming months whether the NYPD has violated New Yorkers' constitutional rights.
If Judge Scheindlin decides there are violations, a court-appointed monitor is one remedy she is considering for the department; in the meantime, council members and civic groups are pushing these bills.
The race to replace Mr. Bloomberg, who this year is leaving office after three terms, has been dominated by stop-and-frisk. In the middle of the debate has been Speaker Christine Quinn, the Democratic front-runner who supports the IG bill and is allowing the racial-profiling legislation to move forward despite her own opposition.
Ms. Quinn defended her position. "We can enhance the effectiveness of the NYPD, and at the same time increase the public's faith and confidence in the department," she said.
Inside council chambers on Monday afternoon, council members didn't address the pros and cons of the legislation because the vote was procedural in nature. But outside on the steps of City Hall, where more than 100 supporters gathered, and later in the morning at One Police Plaza, where Mr. Bloomberg and other opponents held court, both sides passionately argued their cases.
For his news conference, Mr. Bloomberg gathered a group that included two of the city's district attorneys, former Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau and NYPD union leaders.
Supporters braved temperatures approaching 90 degrees, brandishing signs that declared "Stop & Frisk = Racial Profiling" and "Pass The Community Safety Act Now."
Council Member Brad Lander of Brooklyn, another lead sponsor, said, "We can and we must and we will keep New York safe. But we'll do it without profiling our neighbors based on their race....We will restore the bonds of trust that are necessary for good policing."
DAs Join Push to Defeat Legislation
As Council Profiling-Bill Vote Nears, Mayor, Kelly, Unions Circle Wagons
By MARK TOOR — Monday, June 25th, 2013 ‘The Chief / Civil Service Leader’
Pulling out their big guns as a vote approaches this week, proponents and opponents held dueling press conferences June 24 on two bills that would rein in what civil-rights advocates call an overly aggressive NYPD.
The bills’ sponsors, City Councilmen Jumaane Williams and Brad Lander, filled the City Hall steps with supporters waving signs and chanting slogans. Joined by representatives of civil-rights groups including the NAACP, they were backing a bill that would expand the definition of police profiling and allow people who believe they were wrongly stopped and frisked to sue in state court, as well as a slightly less-controversial one that would create an independent Inspector General for the NYPD.
Cops, DAs, Unions Counter
At Police Headquarters, Mayor Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly brought in three current and former District Attorneys and the heads of all five police unions. The press conferences were separated by one hour, two blocks and at least 20 degrees in ambient temperature.
Mr. Williams, standing in the pitiless sun outside City Hall, said the profiling bill “was not about anything but equality.” He said the legislation, which is moving along with a companion bill that would create an Inspector General to monitor the NYPD, “will advance our city’s public-safety mission and address the efficacy of policing policies without compromising the Constitutional rights we all share...If we don’t pass this [profiling] bill, we’ll continue to be in the 1960s.”
Mr. Bloomberg, in the air-conditioned chill of a briefing room at 1 Police Plaza, said he and his entourage were “urging the New York City Council not to threaten all that we’ve achieved in making New York the safest big city in the nation.”
Differ on Police Impact
Critics of the profiling bill said it would hamper the NYPD by stopping the use of descriptions such as race, ethnicity, age or sex to identify suspects. Supporters say that’s not the case. At the City Hall press conference, Mr. Williams repeated an offer he had made four days earlier that if anyone could point to the specific language in the bill that would do so, he would withdraw it.
Mr. Bloomberg was asked about that offer but declined to address it directly. “We’ve talked to all the members of the City Council and expressed our views clearly, and that’s our statement,” he said.
The City Council voted later that day to pass a discharge petition allowing the body to vote on the bills without approval from the Public Safety Committee. Its chairman, Peter F. Vallone Jr., had refused to hold a committee vote on the profiling bill, saying it would raise the level of violence in the city by discouraging police officers from taking action and would blow a hole in the city’s budget with lawsuits that were expensive to defend.
Mr. Williams said a vote could come as early as June 26. Other Council aides said it would definitely occur by the end of the week.
Mr. Bloomberg said the profiling bill’s theory of “disparate impact”— a practice that has a disproportionate effect on a particular community, whether intended or not—would have barred the NYPD from responding as it did to an uptick in shootings in Brooklyn at the beginning of June.
Warns of Court Ban
By adding additional officers in housing projects, he said, the department could be sued for disparate impact based on housing status. By increasing patrols in minority neighborhoods, it could be accused of a disparate racial impact. And by issuing alerts on street gangs, who are mostly male and under 30—that’s a disparate impact on sex and age, he said.
“State courts could ban the police tactics the Commissioner ordered,” he said.
The bill’s proponents emphasized that it was introduced after Mr. Bloomberg refused for more than a year to meet with legislators and community leaders who believe the way the department runs its stop, question and frisk program risks violating the Constitution.
“We have tried and tried again to tell the Mayor, tell the Police Commissioner, to sit down with the people who are affected,” Mr. Williams said. “...If the administration refuses to act, the City Council will step up.”
“We wouldn’t have to be here if the administration was willing to accept that change was necessary in the NYPD,” said Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito.
Worry Cops Will Be Sued
The police unions said they feared that police officers could be held sued personally by people they stop, which would discourage them from taking action.
“When an officer hesitates, that’s life or death,” said Louis Turco, president of the Lieutenants Benevolent Association. “Civil liability may make an officer hesitate.”
“It’s wrong to make a police officer acting in good faith personally liable for a stop,” said Roy Richter, president of the Captains Endowment Association.
Mr. Williams said through a spokesman that officers would have nothing to fear. “Officers may not be held liable for disparate-impact claims,” the spokesman said, In order to win, plaintiffs would need to show discriminatory intent on the part of an individual officer, and the officer could then argue that his or her actions were based on something other than discrimination, he said.
Further, according to the spokesman, the bill would not allow anyone to be assessed monetary damages—not the city, not the NYPD and not individual officers.
Kelly: Boon for Attorneys
Mr. Kelly derisively called the bill “The Full Employment for Plaintiffs’ Attorneys Act.” It would “tie police officers up in endless depositions when they should be on patrol,” he said.
Mr. Bloomberg called the bills’ supporters naive and uninformed, saying they had no experience as police officers or prosecutors.
“If you talk to all of the pros, they say these bills are ill-advised and would hamper the Police Department’s ability to continue reducing crime,” he said. He argued that both the profiling bill, which allows judges to order the NYPD to stop practices they find objectionable, and the IG bill would impede the department’s chain of command.
City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who is seeking the Democratic nomination to replace Mr. Bloomberg, came in for her share of both praise and criticism.
Fairness or Opportunism?
Mr. Lander thanked Ms. Quinn, “who has worked with us to make sure we got the bills to the floor for a vote.” The bills’ opponents said she was doing so only because she was seeking votes.
Critics pointed out that for months, she has expressed a desire to keep Mr. Kelly as Police Commissioner while calling for changes in the stop-and-frisk policy and supporting an Inspector General, both of which he opposes.
“I don’t understand how you can praise Commissioner Kelly and then need someone to watch him,” said Edward D. Mullins, president of the Sergeants Benevolent Association.
Bloomberg: NYPD oversight not needed
By Unnamed Author(s) (The Associated Press) — Monday, June 24th, 2013; 2:45 p.m. EDT
Mayor Michael Bloomberg and top law enforcement officials Monday urged the City Council to vote down proposed legislation creating an outside watchdog for the New York Police Department, saying it would threaten public safety by inhibiting policing.
Council members are nearing a vote on a bill that would create an inspector general to monitor the NYPD's policies and procedures, including its widespread use of the practice known as stop and frisk and its surveillance of Muslims. A second bill would make it easier for people to sue the department over street stops they felt reflected racial profiling.
Bloomberg warned that the measures would reverse a historic drop in crime during his three terms in office. Reports of homicides and other serious offenses have fallen 34 percent since 2001, with the greatest reductions in low-income communities.
"New Yorkers must have policing that respects everyone's rights, including everyone's right to be safe on the streets," Bloomberg said at a news conference at police headquarters. "What we must not have is what these laws would create: A police department pointlessly hampered by outside intrusion and recklessly threatened by second-guessing by the courts."
The mayor was joined by Queens District Attorney Richard Brown, Staten Island District Attorney Dan Donovan and former Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau. Opponents of the bills have argued that the city's five district attorneys and two U.S. attorneys have a solid track record of keeping civil rights abuses in check.
"We already have in place agencies that provide effective oversight and monitoring of the work done by police officers," Brown said. "We don't need another level of oversight."
Bloomberg, citing NYPD efforts to curb shootings by monitoring street gangs, claimed that the legislation would allow gang members to lodge anonymous complaints against the police.
"In the future, any police commissioner would have to dedicate precious resources to disproving anonymous complaints about such basic, fundamental police operations," the mayor said.
Potential restrictions on the NYPD's street-stop program, which the NYPD claims deters gun violence, would invite a wave of frivolous lawsuits that would tie officers "in endless depositions when they should be on patrol," said Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly.
"Who will pay the greatest price for this? The law-abiding citizens of the city's poorest neighborhoods," Kelly said.
Earlier Monday, City Council members, civil rights advocates and other supporters gathered outside City Hall to push for passage of the legislation, saying it was needed to combat discrimination.
"We can and we must and we will keep New Yorkers safe without profiling our neighbors for aggressive policing based on their race or their religion or their sexual orientation," said City Councilman Brad Lander.
The supporters also accused opponents of misleading the public by suggesting that it would bar police from identifying suspects by race. City Councilman Jumaane Williams called on Kelly and others to "sit down with us and stop the fear-mongering and lying."
A series of stories by The Associated Press revealed how city police infiltrated Muslim student groups, put informants in mosques, monitored sermons and otherwise spied on Muslims as part of a broad effort to prevent terrorist attacks. The NYPD says the practices were legal.
Bloomberg says NYC anti-stop-and-frisk measures would help crooks, terrorists
The New York City bills would create an NYPD inspector general to oversee police activity and allow people to sue the city if they believe officers used profiling to make stops or arrests. But Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the measures would force cops to spend their time defending lawsuits instead of keeping the city safe.
By Rocco Parascandola AND Erin Durkin — Tuesday, June 25th, 2013 ‘The New York Daily News’
Two bills that would rein in controversial police tactics took a major step forward in New York City Council on Monday — even as Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly warned that the bills would aid criminals and terrorists.
“Take heart, Al Qaeda wannabes,” Kelly said as he joined Bloomberg to trash the bills before the Council vote.
The bills would create an NYPD inspector general to oversee police activity and allow people to file lawsuits against the city if they believe officers used profiling to make stops or arrests.
Bloomberg said the bills would force cops to spend their time defending lawsuits instead of keeping the city safe.
“What are you going to say at the next eulogy you have to give after these bills are passed when the family is 100% convinced that had you not passed this bill, their child would still be alive?” Bloomberg asked Council members as they prepared to vote. “This is not a game. This is a life-threatening thing.”
Despite the warnings, the Council voted 41 to 8 to allow the bills to bypass a committee. They’ll get a full council vote this week.
Although bills typically need the approval of a committee to reach a full Council vote, supporters of the measures used an obscure procedure called a “motion to discharge” because Public Safety Committee Chairman Peter Vallone (D-Queens) refused to allow a vote by his panel.
It was the first time a “motion to discharge” has been used since Christine Quinn (D-Manhattan) became council speaker in 2006.
The bills had been in limbo until March, when Quinn, under heavy political pressure in her race for mayor, threw her support behind the inspector general measure.
She opposes the racial profiling bill but agreed to let it move forward despite her opposition.
On Monday, she voted to advance both bills, but said she planned to vote against the profiling bill when it goes before the full Council.
The profiling bill would allow New Yorkers to sue if they think they’ve been profiled based on their race, religion, sexual preference or other characteristics. Bloomberg said only lawyers would benefit if the bill passes. “Every tort lawyer is going to buy a new house and a new car right away,” he said.
But supporters of the measures dismissed criticism from Bloomberg and Kelly as lies and fear-mongering from a mayor and police commissioner desperate to protect their legacy.
The supporters noted that cops wouldn’t be barred from using race and other factors in descriptions of suspects, people wouldn’t be able to sue for money and the inspector general would only be able to make recommendations — not force the NYPD to listen.
“Any time you start to discuss better policing, police reform, they say the sky is going to fall, the whole city is going to be in a rampage, all laws will be in default, and everybody will run amok,” said Councilman Jumaane Williams (D-Brooklyn), who sponsored both bills.
“For some reason, [Bloomberg] still believes he’s going to go down as one of the best mayors in history, and he’s worried about anybody who challenges his legacy.”
Claim Impact Will Handcuff Officers
Blinded or Uninformed? Cop Unions, Profiling-Bill Sponsors Trade Barbs
By MARK TOOR — Monday, June 25th, 2013 ‘The Chief / Civil Service Leader’
That’s Captains Endowment Association President Roy Richter in the ad, standing blindfolded in his Deputy Inspector’s uniform outside the Times Square police substation to illustrate how law-enforcement unions believe a proposed bill banning profiling will affect police officers.
“In fact, he should have a pair of handcuffs on, too, because officers will be handcuffed from doing their jobs,” Detectives Endowment Association President Michael J. Palladino said at a press conference June 19 at which the DEA, the CEA, and the Patrolmen’s and Lieutenants Benevolent Associations urged the City Council to delay action on the profiling bill.
Wait for Election
The union presidents made clear that they opposed the bill in any form, but they urged the Council to let it cool until after the mayoral election is over and a decision is handed down in Floyd vs. City of New York, which challenges the constitutionality of the city’s stop, question and frisk program and could result in the appointment of a Federal monitor.
The ad starring the visually-impaired Mr. Richter began appearing in city newspapers June 20. Paid for by the CEA and the Lieutenants Benevolent Association, it calls on readers to ask their Council Members to vote against the bill.
“The New York City Council wants to pass a law that bans police officers from identifying a person by age, gender, color or disability,” it says. “If a police officer transmits descriptions beyond clothing color they can be sued for racial profiling. That’s dangerous for the public and for police officers.”
The profiling bill has become a particularly heated issue in recent weeks, overshadowing a companion bill that would create an independent Inspector General for the NYPD, the only major city agency that does not already have one. The two bills were part of a package introduced after Mayor Bloomberg refused to meet with lawmakers and community leaders disturbed by the way the department was conducting stop-and-frisk.
A Political Background
The profiling bill has become an issue in the mayoral race, with Council Speaker Christine Quinn promising a vote expected by the end of this week, although she has said she does not support it.
“For years she stopped bills she didn’t agree with from coming to the floor,” PBA President Patrick J. Lynch said at the press conference. “Because it’s election time and she’s running for Mayor she’ll let anything go to the floor.”
“My question for Speaker Quinn is, ‘Why now?’” Mr. Palladino asked. “She’s been Speaker for the past seven years and stop-and-frisks have only gone up.”
The two sides are so polarized they don’t even agree on what the bill would do. Although the police-union leaders agreed with Mr. Richter that it would not allow police to use demographic factors in identifying suspects, civil-liberties groups and other supporters of the bill say that’s not the case.
Sponsor: Misrepresents Bill
Councilman Brad Lander, its co-sponsor, called the CEA-LBA ad “a flat-out misrepresentation of the bill and everybody knows it.”
In a statement regarding what they called “false media advertisements,” Mr. Lander and the other co-sponsor, Jumaane Williams, said, “Opponents have no argument to defend police profiling, so they have resorted to fabrications instead. There is absolutely nothing in this bill that would prevent officers from using race, gender, age or other factors in suspect descriptions.”
Mr. Lander’s comment led Councilman Peter F. Vallone Jr., who is so opposed to the bill that he would not bring it to a vote in the Public Safety Committee he chairs, to say that Mr. Richter had been “personally called a liar.” The CEA president was working off a bill that was outdated, Mr. Vallone said, and it was the responsibility of Mr. Lander and Mr. Williams to inform people of changes that were made.
“That’s ridiculous,” said a spokesman for Mr. Williams. “All the bills were publicly accessible on the Council website.” The latest version of the bill, as of last week, can be seen at http://goo.gl/dqLBU. Mr. Lander and Mr. Williams said they had made many changes to meet legal and other objections.
Mr. Williams issued a more pointed statement June 21, saying, “If anyone can identify the specific clause of the legislation that would keep law enforcement from using descriptive factors such as race in a suspect description, I will withdraw the bill. If no one can, as I suspect will be the case, then I charge them to withdraw their false advertisements and come clean to New Yorkers.”
How Law Would Expand
The bill would expand the current anti-profiling law to include not only race and ethnicity but factors such as sexual identity, immigration status and homelessness. It would allow people who feel they were stopped because of one of these factors to sue in state court, not for monetary damages but for an order banning the Police Department from continuing such practices.
It is sponsored by 33 Council Members and Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, who is also running for Mayor. The Council needs 34 votes (Mr. de Blasio can’t vote) to override the expected veto by Mr. Bloomberg.
“It’s unfortunate that rather than having a constructive discussion about how to protect their members and New Yorkers from discrimination and a quota system that has driven discriminatory profiling, these unions have instead dangerously chosen to fear-monger and mischaracterize these reform bills to the public,” said Joo-Hyun Kang, a spokeswoman for Communities United for Police Reform, a coalition of more than 25 community and legal groups.
But Mr. Lynch said, “The proposal claims to protect the rights of innocent citizens, but will instead protect the criminals by making it much more difficult for police to arrest them. It is a politically-driven, piece-of-garbage legislation that will cost lives and bring crime and disorder back to the city.”
Chilling Effect on Cops?
Louis Turco, the president of the LBA, said, “This proposed legislation will cause the members of the department to hesitate transmitting legal and detailed information of persons who commit crimes, potentially leaving our members vulnerable to personal civil liability. This hesitation will place the public and our members in harm’s way.”
Mr. Vallone, who participated in the press conference, said a discharge petition was filed in the full Council to bypass his committee. “I will soon have the dubious distinction of being the first chair in the City Council who the Speaker has gone around,” he said. “I refuse to be part of this process that will absolutely result in blood in the street.”
Police Reform Advocates say Bloomberg Misrepresenting Bills’ Threats
By Ross Barkan — Monday, June 24th, 2013; 1:01 p.m. ‘The Politicker.Com’ / New York, NY
A fiery rally in support of NYPD reform legislation was the latest stage in the heated dispute between Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the City Council, only one hour before the outgoing mayor held his own press conference condemning the measures. But despite Mr. Bloomberg’s passionate arguments, a lead sponsor of the act sees an ulterior motive.
“My personal belief is that for some reason he believes this is a challenge to his legacy. That is the only possible thing I can believe,” Councilman Jumaane Williams told Politicker. “The truth be told, these bills don’t even move the needle as much as we want to. They don’t move the needle as much as it should be moved … So the only reason that I can believe is that, for some reason, he still believes he’s going to go down as one of the best mayors in history.”
The rally on the steps of City Hall drew dozens of chanting activists attempting to show the controversial legislation, which would create an NYPD inspector general and strengthen racial profiling laws, has ardent grassroots support.
The City Council will be voting later today on an historic motion to discharge the bills, which were introduced as part of the Community Safety Act, from the Public Safety Committee, where they have been bottled up by the committee’s chair, Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. The legislation, meant to address complaints against the NYPD’s use of stop-and-frisk and alleged discrimination against the city’s LGBT and homeless communities during stops, has been loudly opposed by both Mr. Vallone and the Bloomberg administration. Mr. Bloomberg has argued the bills, if put into law, would hamper the police’s ability to combat crime and lead to more deaths.
The votes today will mark the first time motions to discharge have ever been used under City Council Speaker Christine Quinn’s tenure.
But another bill sponsor, Brooklyn Councilman Brad Lander, argued opponents of the legislation were misreading its language and stirring up unnecessary fear.
“We can and we must and we will keep New Yorkers safe without profiling our neighbors for aggressive policing based on their race, their religion or their sexual orientation,” he said. “It really is that simple. You’re going to hear a lot of bluster later today, things you know are false about descriptions, things you know are false about two-headed commissioners.”
Countering another Bloomberg claim that the legislation would confuse the NYPD’s chain of command, Mr. Lander added that the bill “will establish an NYPD inspector general, not somebody who can set police policy, but somebody who can conduct investigations when there’s reason to believe surveillance is being conducted based on religious identity or ethnic identity and not based on leads. It’s that simple.”
Kirsten John Foy, a candidate for City Council in Brooklyn who was arrested two years ago with Mr. Williams at the West Indian Day Parade, put Mr. Lander’s argument in starker terms.
“The City of New York is tired of the dictatorship,” Mr. Foy said, gesturing to City Hall behind him. “The City of New York is tired of the people in this building saying to us, no matter how loudly you cry, no matter how much blood is spilled, no matter how many of you are violated, we don’t care. Well guess what? The City of New York is here to say we don’t care what you say now!”
Before the press conference began, Mr. Vallone coincidentally walked up the steps of City Hall, inches from where the rally was setting up.
“You got to protect New Yorkers!” one of the activists shouted at Mr. Vallone.
Mr. Vallone walked on, quietly entering City Hall.
Opinion / Pro & Con
Tuesday, June 25th, 2013 ‘The New York Times’ Editorial:
Reining in Stop-and-Frisk
Pushed into action by growing public outrage over the New York Police Department’s abusive and constitutionally suspect stop-and-frisk program, the City Council is poised finally to vote on two bills that begin to address the problem. One establishes an enforceable ban on racial profiling. The other creates the position of inspector general, an official with sweeping powers to review Police Department policies. Both deserve to pass.
The Council began focusing on this issue legislatively as far back as 2001, when it required the Police Department to submit quarterly reports detailing its stop-and-frisk activity, including information about the race and gender of those who had been stopped. Then, in 2004, concerned about the program’s effect on minority residents, the Council prohibited the use of racial or ethnic profiling.
Neither measure has been effective. The stop-and-frisk program still disproportionately affects minority residents, and it has become the subject of three federal lawsuits. In Floyd v. the City of New York, plaintiffs argue that the Police Department is stopping and frisking people based on race rather than reasonable suspicion of criminal behavior. If a federal court rules against the city, it could potentially install a monitor to oversee reforms.
Unlike the 2004 bill, the new one would give people who believe they have been treated unfairly the right to sue for redress. It would not provide for monetary damages, but instead would allow a state court judge to declare the police behavior illegal and order the department to address the problem.
The second bill, long awaited, would create an inspector general similar to those in other cities and in federal agencies like the C.I.A. and the F.B.I. City Hall’s objection — that an inspector general would impinge law enforcement and make the city unsafe — is without merit. An inspector general would not run the department; he or she would scrutinize policies and recommend improvements. Given the Police Department’s long history of abusive conduct, that’s just what the doctor ordered.
The fool’s Council
Quinn assists an anti-NYPD bill
By Bob McManus — Tuesday, June 25th, 2013 ‘The New York Post’
(Op-Ed / Commentary)
City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, in hot pursuit of the mayoralty, jumped aboard the anti-NYPD bandwagon with both feet yesterday — ditching council custom and her own best practices to move a bill meant to slap down conscientious cops across the five boroughs.
The title of the measure says it all: The “Bias-Based Profiling Bill” originally prohibited the mere mention of race in descriptions of criminal suspects or fugitives — an absurdity too far even for Quinn’s terminally unserious council.
And so it was amended to proscribe the “profiling” of virtually every identifiable interest group in New York City — including the disabled.
That’s a break for wheelchair-bound muggers and other unconventional criminals, but the result is a bill that now has no immediate practical point, but plenty of political significance.
Thus it remained too much for one of Quinn’s few adult colleagues, Public Safety Committee Chairman Peter Vallone Jr. of Queens: He refused to clear the measure for consideration by the full council — an arguably undemocratic sequester, but business as usual for Quinn’s councilmembers.
What happened next was anything but usual: Quinn, for the first time in her eight years as speaker, permitted a parliamentary maneuver that saw the bill out of committee and on the way to a full council vote — in this case, tomorrow.
Thus did Quinn complete her devolution from clear-headed paladin of public safety to just another attention-mongering NYPD ankle-biter seeking higher office.
This follows last week’s beyond-condescending public recitation of the conditions Police Commissioner Ray Kelly must meet to join a Quinn administration — not that Kelly has shown the slightest interest in working for her in the first place.
Indeed, the thought of Kelly in harness alongside Quinn’s other big idea — a sure-enough departmental inspector-general — makes for one big belly-laugh.
Not so the notion of the IG itself, though. While it’s not clear exactly what Quinn intends for her agent actually to do, the proposal declares her belief that the department is out of control.
Which is a little bizarre. Not even the months-long anti-NYPD kangaroo-court proceeding just concluded by US District Judge Shira Scheindlin demonstrated that (even if she seems intent on putting the department into federal receivership anyway.)
So, again, Quinn is either deluded. Or posturing.
Bet on the latter.
It’s all the rage these days.
Not one of the major Democrats now running for mayor is fully supportive of the people, the policies and the institutions that dragged New York back from the abyss two decades ago — and have since fashioned the city into a relative public-safety paradise.
That transformation was almost wholly the result of the extraordinary individual accountability shoehorned into NYPD culture by Rudy Giuliani and Bill Bratton, among others, back in the ’90s — and sustained by Mike Bloomberg and Ray Kelly ever since.
The key was, and remains, an unambiguous chain of command: From the mayor to the commissioner and precinct commanders, right down to the cop on the beat via the sergeants who supervise them.
Communication, through the ComStat analysis system, is constant — and the results are clear for all to see: the New York public-safety renaissance.
Better than what was before? Obviously.
Vastly superior to what Quinn & Co. are proposing?
Yes, and here’s why: Any break in the chain of authority — Quinn’s IG, a federal receiver, the council’s witless “profiling” bill, whatever — will undercut policy set by the city’s elected leaders and, over time, compromise command accountability. All the way down to the cop on the beat.
Bratton, Giuliani’s first police commissioner, recently told a Manhattan Institute forum that — in his experience — 20 percent of the cops on any given police department will walk through walls to get the job done right and 20 percent can’t be motivated under any circumstances. The challenge, he said, lies in keeping the middle 60 percent focused and productive — and that requires sophisticated accountability of the sort now under political challenge.
Another old officer, back in the day, put it more bluntly: “No cop will touch vagrants unless you make him. Vagrants smell bad, and you can catch diseases from them. That’s why tough sergeants matter.”
That, again, is why clear accountability matters.
New York has had politicized policing before, beginning most recently with John Lindsay.
And it has had professional policing, too, beginning lately with Rudy Giuliani.
Memo to Chris Quinn: Professional is better. Tell your friends.
Counterterrorism Surveillance of Muslims
City Insists It’s Constitutional
Sue NYPD Challenging Surveillance of Muslims
By MARK TOOR — Monday, June 25th, 2013 ‘The Chief / Civil Service Leader’
The NYPD’s Muslim Surveillance Program is violating the rights of hundreds of thousands people by tracking them based solely on their religion, without suspicion that they broke the law, the New York Civil Liberties Union charged in a Federal lawsuit filed June 18.
“This policy and practice has a false and unconstitutional premise: that Muslim religious belief and practices are a basis for law-enforcement scrutiny,” stated the complaint.
‘Stifled, Disrupted Us’
“NYPD surveillance has affected every facet of American Muslim life in our city,” Ramzi Kassem, supervising attorney at Creating Law Enforcement Accountability & Responsibility (CLEAR), an advocacy group affiliated with the City University of New York School of Law, said at a press conference June 18. “The program has stifled speech, disrupted communal life and chilled religious practice, and it has criminalized a broad segment of American Muslims.”
The suit, Raza vs. City of New York, does not ask for money damages. Instead, it seeks a judicial order that would halt the program and require that information already gained from it be destroyed. Like the lawsuits on the constitutionality of the city’s stop-and-frisk policy, it seeks an independent monitor to ensure the Police Department ends any unconstitutional surveillance associated with religion.
“No one questions that the NYPD has a job to do, but spying on innocent New Yorkers because of their religion is a wrong and ineffective way to do it,” said Hina Shamsi, director of the National Security Project run by the American Civil Liberties Union, the NYCLU’s parent organization and a participant in the suit. “We are asking the court to end the NYPD’s unconstitutional religious discrimination.”
The lawsuit names the city, Mayor Bloomberg, Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly and Deputy Commissioner of Intelligence David Cohen as defendants. It argues that the Muslim Surveillance Program violates the U.S. Constitution’s guarantee of free exercise of religion and government neutrality toward all religions, as well as the New York State Constitution.
It says officers and police informants routinely monitor restaurants, bookstores and mosques and create records of innocent conversations. The department also sends paid infiltrators into mosques, student associations and other places to take photos, write down license-plate numbers and keep notes on people for no reason other than because they are Muslim, according to the suit.
City lawyers, Mr. Bloomberg and the NYPD have said that the department follows the Handschu guidelines, rules set up nearly 30 years ago that limit police surveillance. They forbid the department from investigating individuals or groups in the absence of indications of terrorist or criminal activity.
‘Legal and Appropriate’
“The NYPD’s strategic approach to combating terrorism is legal, appropriate and designed to keep our city safe,” Celeste Koeleveld, Executive Assistant Corporation Counsel for Public Safety at the city Law Department, said in a statement. “The NYPD recognizes the critical importance of ‘on-the-ground’ research, as police need to be informed about where a terrorist may go while planning or what they may do after an attack, as the Boston Marathon bombing proved...Our results speak for themselves, with New York being the safest big city in America and the police having helped thwart several terrorist plots in recent years.”
NYPD spokesman Paul J. Browne said, “In New York City, the NYPD follows Federal Handshu guidelines, which provide that ‘the NYPD is authorized to visit any place and attend any event that is open to the public’ and ‘to conduct online search activity and to access online sites and forums on the same terms...as members of the public.’ The department is further authorized to ‘prepare general reports and assessments...for purposes of strategic or operational planning.’
“Critics who suggest that it is unlawful for the Police Department to search online, visit public places, or map neighborhoods either haven’t read the guidelines or are intentionally obfuscating their meaning,” he said.
‘Go Where Allegations Are’
“The Police Department goes where there are allegations,” Mr. Bloomberg said in February 2012, after reports that the NYPD had accompanied Muslim students from Yale University on a whitewater rafting trip. “And they look to see those allegations are true. That’s what you’d expect them to do...We are going to continue to do that.”
One plaintiff, Asad Dandia, 20, a Brooklyn resident and sophomore at Kingsborough Community College, says an informant infiltrated Muslims Giving Back, a charitable group he founded to provide food to families in need.
Since the informant revealed himself, Mr. Dandia said, his group lost its meeting location at a local mosque, donations have declined, it has had difficulty attracting new members, and current members worry that another informant may still be active in it. Mr. Dandia says he has changed how he speaks and acts for fear that anything he says or does can be taken out of context.
“I am constantly frightened,” he said at the press conference. “What if I say the wrong thing? Islam requires giving back to the community that which you have been given by God. I’ve done nothing wrong and yet I am unable to practice Islam fully because of what the Police Department did to me.”
Tapes Sermons for Safety
Another of the six plaintiffs, Imam Hamid Hassan Raza, leader of Brooklyn’s Masjid Al-Ansar mosque, said he has been taping his sermons for years because he is afraid an undercover officer will misquote him or take a portion of a sermon out of context.
After plainclothes officers visited him repeatedly for no reason, he said, he stopped mentioning topics the NYPD might consider controversial, and urged congregants to do the same. Imam Raza said he has seen a steep decline in mosque attendance as a result of the Muslim Surveillance Program.
“I don’t talk to my congregants about current affairs or religious subjects the NYPD may find objectionable because I’m afraid of further police attention,” he said. “The surveillance program has prevented me from fulfilling my duty as an imam. I cannot believe this has happened in the country that I know and love.”
‘Need to Pressure Kelly’
The lawsuit “is unfortunately necessary to pressure Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, who has repeatedly defended his department’s religion-based policing, to end this unlawful program,” said Glenn Katon, legal director of Muslim Advocates, a national group. “...
Commissioner Kelly’s recent pronouncement that the NYPD has changed nothing as a result of the exposure of the program leaves victims with no choice but to take their case to the courts.”
He noted that Muslims in New Jersey have sued over NYPD surveillance, and that a Federal court overseeing the lawsuit that resulted in the Handschu guidelines has been asked to find the Muslim Surveillance Program in violation of those rules.
Rebuttal to Monday, June 24, 2013 N.Y. Times Editorial on NYPD surveillance of the Muslim community
By Stu Gang (Ret. Lieut. and Past President of the NYPD Shomrim Society)
(Op-Ed / Commentary)
The New York Times has taken the department to task for what is claimed to be illegal surveillance of the Muslim community, which has allegedly inhibited Muslims from exercising First Amendment rights.
Anyone familiar with the Muslim Day Parade held annually in Manhattan would find some irony in this situation. As documented by Tom Trento of The United West, the most recent parade, held on Madison Avenue last September, hosted official speakers who were anti-American, anti-Semitic, and anti-free speech.
An imam demanded an international law outlawing movies disrespectful of Mohammad, and another speaker recited a “poem” about how the Umma (Muslim community) must fight against the United States and turmoil in Burma, Syria, Chechnya, and Kashmir. She stated that “We have the unborn martyrs in our wombs,” and included a reference to “Zionist Nazis.”
Yet another speaker, also enjoying the First Amendment, advocated for the curtailment of same: “Just like many sensitive topics have been excluded from freedom of speech, so should defamation of religion be made a crime against humanity. No one should be allowed to insult or ridicule any prophet and violate the honor of any holy book.”
It is astonishing that the Muslim community would put on a public presentation that increases suspicion and mistrust, which of course could possibly justify surveillance. But even more astonishing is the fact that the NYPD lent the honor and prestige of its marching band to this hate-fest.
Will the department march to the same drummer in this year’s parade?
Muslims Push Back Against NYPD Surveillance
By Faiza Patel and Michael Price — Monday, June 24th, 2013; 12:58 p.m. ‘The Huffington Post’ / New York, NY
Preventing terrorist attacks in New York City is an enormous responsibility. And many New Yorkers owe a debt of gratitude to the New York Police Department for keeping us safe. But in its effort to fight terrorism, the NYPD has also gone too far. A complaint filed in Brooklyn federal court on Tuesday alleges that the NYPD violated American Muslims' constitutional rights by monitoring them based on nothing more than their religion. An unproven theory that treats religion as a proxy for terrorism underpins the police surveillance program. The Department should jettison its discredited theory and its overly broad surveillance, both of which stigmatize Muslim religious practice in ways that raise serious constitutional concerns.
The purported theory behind the surveillance program is explained in a 2007 NYPD report, "Radicalization in the West: The Homegrown Threat." Using only a handful of cases, the NYPD claimed it could identify a trajectory of Muslim "radicalization." Essentially, the report says there is a religious conveyor belt: young Muslim men with political and personal grievances become more religious and this leads inexorably to violence. Almost all of the conduct the NYPD finds suspicious is common among observant Muslims: e.g., growing a beard, wearing Islamic clothing, and becoming more involved in community activities. Some terrorists surely display these innocuous behaviors. Of course, so do many Muslims. But the NYPD's report does not distinguish between terrorists who happen to fit this profile and the overwhelming majority of law-abiding American Muslims.
The NYPD's social science is contradicted by decades of research showing there is no single path to terrorism and no single terrorist profile. Key federal counterterrorism agencies take the same view. As one of the foremost researchers in the field, Marc Sageman, a former CIA case officer and psychiatrist, recently concluded no one can yet "identify the signature words and behaviors of those who turn to violence."
Although the NYPD has said its 2007 report was not intended to drive policy, it sure looks that way. Tuesday's filing is based in part on a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigation by the Associated Press. The AP released NYPD documents showing that the police sent agents into mosques to listen in on religious and political discussions. The police mapped Muslim communities, noting the locations of mosques, restaurants, book stores, and even barbershops. Officers monitored the websites of Muslim student groups and reported daily to top brass on religious events and speakers. It will be hard for the NYPD to deny that the entire community was targeted; scores of police documents reflect that fact.
The lawsuit is brought on behalf of Islamic institutions and individual Muslims who say they suffered concrete harms because of the surveillance program.
Two Brooklyn mosques allege that, well before the AP's revelations, they became suspicious when young men began showing up who seemed less interested in religious worship than stirring up conversations on controversial subjects. Congregants and mosque leaders assumed these men were police informants, which proved to be correct in at least one instance. The impact on mosques was predictable: drops in attendance, suspicion that any new congregant might be an informant, and the cancellation of community events that they believed would attract police attention.
An imam at one of the mosques says he became so concerned that informants would take his words out of context that he refrained from discussing current events and recorded all his sermons. Another imam began including a witness in private conversations with any newcomer seeking religious or spiritual counseling.
An Islamic charity founded to serve low-income Muslims also claims its operations foundered when it became known that it had been infiltrated by an informant. It lost the support of the mosque out of which it operated, and people became reluctant to give donations for fear of coming under police scrutiny.
The NYPD argues that such aggressive surveillance is necessary to keep New Yorkers safe. Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly has repeatedly claimed that his force thwarted 16 terrorist plots in the past decade. But independent analyses cast serious doubt on that number, as do "success stories" from federal agencies, which take credit for stopping the same plots as the NYPD. And just last year, the commanding officer of the NYPD's Intelligence Division testified that its eerily named "Demographics Unit" had produced no actionable intelligence for at least six years.
In any event, if the plaintiffs succeed in convincing the court that the Department is targeting Muslims, the NYPD will have to do much more than assert the general usefulness of the program. It will have to demonstrate that its approach is narrowly tailored to address the threat of terrorism. Given the sweeping scope of the NYPD's surveillance operations, this will be a heavy lift.
This lawsuit shows how the Department's surveillance constrains the religious practices of law-abiding people. This is precisely the sort of harm against which the constitution protects. The court should put a stop to surveillance of Muslims that is based on little more than stereotypes.
Faiza Patel co-directs the Liberty & National Security Program at the Brennan Center for Justice. Michael Price is Counsel in the Liberty & National Security Program.
Mayor Bloomberg defends NYPD's controversial English-only policy
Responding to a Daily News story about an officer reprimanded for speaking a single Spanish sentence to a colleague, Bloomberg said the ban on other languages is a 'life and death' issue.
By Jennifer Fermino — Tuesday, June 25th, 2013 ‘The New York Daily News’
Calling it a “life and death” issue, Mayor Bloomberg on Monday defended the NYPD’s English-only policy as crucial to running the largest and most diverse police force in the nation.
“I don’t see how you can ever run any company or any organization unless everybody speaks the same language,” said Bloomberg, who routinely ends his news conferences in Spanish.
Hizzoner was responding to a Daily News story Monday that exposed the controversial policy so strict that one cop was cited for uttering one sentence in Spanish.
“In America, in New York, I think it’s fair to say that a majority of people speak English and so that’s the language that we have to communicate in,” Bloomberg said.
“This is life and death . . . Everybody has to be able to understand the same commands instantly and go in the direction they’re ordered to go when lives are on the line.”
Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly, who frequently boasts about the diversity in the police department, said he’s “proud” that more than a quarter of NYPD officers are Hispanic.
But that doesn’t mean they should go around speaking Spanish, he said.
“Suppose you are a citizen and you walk into a police station and you find the police officers speaking Gaelic,” said Kelly. “It would be somewhat unsettling, right?”
But critics say Kelly and Bloomberg are missing the point.
“We’re talking about conversations between officers. Not emergencies,” said Anthony Miranda, chairman of the National Latino Officers Association.
Miranda is a former NYPD sergeant who retired in 2002.
The News report Monday highlighted Officer Jessenia Guzman, who was issued an order of reprimand last month for speaking Spanish while on duty at an upper West Side precinct.
Department brass have also begun informing management trainees in the Police Academy to begin enforcing the strict policy across the agency.
“I find being told that I can’t speak the language my grandmother taught me degrading,” said one officer of Puerto Rican descent.
The crackdown on speaking other languages comes as the NYPD seeks to attract immigrants and minorities, particularly since Kelly took over in 2002.
In the past several years, non-English speakers have accounted for one in five Police Academy recruits, according to the NYPD.
After English, the second most-common language is Spanish.
Other languages include Farsi, Finnish and Igbo, which is spoken in Nigeria.
Question and Frisk Search and the Mayoral Election
For The Record
By RICHARD STEIER — Monday, June 25th, 2013 ‘The Chief / Civil Service Leader’
Christine Quinn’s autobiography isn’t exactly flying off the shelves, but the chances of Police Commissioner Ray Kelly staying on if she’s elected Mayor may be gone with the wind based on her remarks during the June 19 Democratic debate concerning issues of interest to the Latino community.
Asked about the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk tactics, former City Comptroller Bill Thompson called it “a policy that has run wild” and been “misused and abused,” even while saying he would keep it if elected.
Ms. Quinn put in, “We became obsessed with the quantity of stops and not the quality of them,” which can be read only as a shot at either Mayor Bloomberg or Mr. Kelly, or both. She said that if she was Mayor, she would give the Police Commissioner a “clear charge”: get stop-and-frisks down and make sure they are done constitutionally. If he failed to do so, he’ll “get fired,” she said.
That prompted Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, who’s been ripping Ms. Quinn in recent weeks for being too close to the Mayor, to say, “I find it astounding that Speaker Quinn, with a straight face, can say that she thinks Ray Kelly will bring down the level of stop-and-frisks.”
Nobody pointed out that as pressure has mounted on this issue, Mr. Kelly actually has sharply reduced the number of stops: they were down more than 150,000 last year from the 685,000-plus conducted in 2011. We have to wonder, though, how enthusiastic he’d be about working for someone who pre-emptively read him the riot act during a debate televised on NY1.
The New York Times reported that in its first week of publication, Ms. Quinn’s book sold only about 100 print copies, and far fewer copies were shipped to Amazon than initially planned. That suggests Mr. Bloomberg hasn’t weighed in with a mass purchase to boost sales.
Staten Island's 121 Precinct
New NYPD stationhouse - and a new Staten Island precinct - set to open
By John M. Annese — Tuesday, June 25th, 2013 ‘The Staten Island Advance’ / Staten Island
STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. -- Look out a second-floor window of the new 121st Precinct station, and you can practically see the entire northwest shore of the borough stretching out before you -- traffic, crime and all. On a clear day, you can see the Manhattan skyline.
Light streams through the windows and into the wide-open lobby of the precinct building, while a gentle curve in ceiling and floor gives the illusion that the hallway behind it stretches out to infinity.
The building -- the borough's first new police stationhouse since 1962 -- is slated to open formally for business on Monday, finally bringing to fruition a pledge to add a fourth precinct here that dates to Michael Bloomberg's second mayoral campaign, in 2005.
It will house 200 personnel, said Deputy Inspector Terence Hurson, the commanding officer. Though he couldn't commit to an exact number, he expects about 160 of that total will be police officers, detectives and supervisors.
Most of those officers will come from the borough's three existing precincts -- the 121st is inheriting four patrol sectors each from both the 120th and 122nd precincts -- but a full third will be new boots on the ground here, transferred from off-Island, he said.
"It's gonna really change how we police Staten Island. Because not only are you getting a new precinct -- what a new precinct means is that not only are cops coming here, but you're getting a detective squad who will be dealing with investigating crimes in this area," Hurson said. "You're getting a new command structure, myself and my staff, to analyze the crimes for this side of Staten Island. So there's a greater focus for Staten Island, and more resources, more people."
The precinct will have a contingent of about 25 marked vehicles, including 18 standard RMP, or "radio motor patrol" cars, and two vans, and its parking lot has 108 spots.
The main entrance to the new station -- located at 950 Richmond Ave., not far from the intersection of Forest Avenue -- looks more suburban than a traditional New York City police stationhouse. It's set back from the sidewalk, with a circular driveway before the stairs leading to the front doors.
"In a way, it sort of acknowledges the way we really approach public buildings in this area, which is, frankly, by car. People are going to drive up," said Barbara Spandorf, a program director for the city's Department of Design and Construction. "I love the 120[th Precinct in St. George]. It's really a classic police precinct, and it feels quite urban. You can walk on the sidewalk and go up there. But this really isn't that kind of neighborhood, and the reality is, people are going to drive in, park their car, and walk up."
Visitors will see a long counter, with an array of computer screens, stretched along the right side of the building, while prisoners come in through a back entrance, to be placed in one of four new cells. One of the four cells is attached to the detective squad's office.
The remaining three are placed in a dedicated area, with a separate bathroom in view of a police officer.
Central booking will still go through St. George's 120th Precinct, and prisoners awaiting transport to criminal court will still have to stay in the notoriously grungy cells of that stationhouse.
Hurson explained that even with the new facilities, logistically it would be too difficult to transport prisoners from Graniteville to Stapleton Criminal Court or the soon-to-be-completed new judicial complex in St. George.
Similarly, the NYPD's Highway 5 unit will stay at the 122nd Precinct in New Dorp, even though the new precinct is the closest to the borough's highways.
"They want an indoor facility for their vehicles, and we don't have that," Hurson said.
The precinct covers the Island's northwest neighborhoods, including Port Richmond, Mariners Harbor, and Richmond Avenue down to the Staten Island Mall. Once it opens, the NYPD will put to rest its makeshift satellite office across from the Mall.
The stationhouse cost $65.5 million to construct, and the two-story story building is being hailed as the city's first "green" cop shop -- it was built to Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Silver standards, and will use 25 percent less energy and 30 percent less water than a comparable building.
Despite the gleaming new facility, Assistant Chief Kevin P. Ward, Staten Island's borough commander, said the department has no plans at this point to move Staten Island's command structure from the 122nd Precinct stationhouse in New Dorp.
"It is a pretty impressive building," Ward said. "It's extremely spacious. I mean, even if you look at the desk area, it's like airport control."
Placing the detective squad on the first floor, close to the cell areas, was a conscious design decision, to make speaking to prisoners more convenient, he said.
"A lot of thought and design has gone into this. They haven't built a new precinct in over 20 years, so there was a lot of input throughout the department."
75 Precinct Hero Peter J. Figoski
PBA: Won’t Let ’em Get Out
Two Guilty in Figoski’s Murder Get 25-to-Life
By MARK TOOR — Monday, June 25th, 2013 ‘The Chief / Civil Service Leader’
The last two men convicted in the murder of Police Officer Peter J. Figoski were sentenced June 20 to 25-years-to-life in prison.
After the proceeding, Officer Figoski’s mother, Mary Ann Figoski, 79, issued a statement through the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association giving “a huge thank-you” to police and prosecutors “who so successfully brought us to this day.”
Shooter Doing 45-to-Life
Officer Figoski, 47, was responding to a robbery call in the early hours of Dec. 12, 2011, at a basement apartment in the Cypress Hills section of Brooklyn. As he began descending a short staircase outside the apartment, one of the robbers emerged and shot him in the head. That man, Lamont Pride, was convicted of second-degree murder, manslaughter and burglary and was sentenced to 45-years-to-life.
On June 20, two members of the robbery crew, Nelson Morales, 29, and Kevin Santos, 32, were sentenced by Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Alan Marrus on their convictions for burglary and second-degree murder. The murder charge arose from their participation in a crime that led to a death—that of Officer Figoski.
Prosecutors said they would be eligible for parole after 21½ years, but PBA President Patrick J. Lynch pledged that the two would never be released. “They planted the demon seed that set in motion the death of a hero, a great man, a great father, a wonderful brother and a terrific son,” he said. “We will be here in 2050. We may be grayer, there may be others that look like us, but we will be here to make sure that they never, ever get parole.”
Before they were sentenced, the two defendants expressed some remorse. “I wanted to give my condolences to the Figoski family for their loss,” Mr. Santos said. “I still claim my innocence in knowing the intentions of my co-defendants.”
Mr. Morales said, “I’m sorry for what happened to you.” He told the Figoski family that because he had been shot himself once, “I know exactly what you guys are going through.”
After Mr. Pride was convicted of second-degree murder and burglary, alleged getaway driver Michael Velez was acquitted by a jury. Then came the convictions of Mr. Morales, who prosecutors said led the robbery gang, and Mr. Santos, whose lawyer described him as a “pothead” who just wanted to get high.
The fifth man involved in Officer Figoski’s murder, Ariel Tejada, 24, is scheduled for sentencing in the next few weeks. He agreed to plead guilty in return for a sentence of 18 years to life and testified against the other defendants.
A Dedicated Dad
Officer Figoski served for 22 years in the high-crime 75th Precinct, working the midnight shift so he could spend time with his four high-school-and-college-age daughters. They and his ex-wife attended court on most of the days that the trials were in session.
His mother issued the following statement:
“The saying ‘no man is an island’ was brought home to our family with devastating reality on that sad day, Dec. 12, 2011, when our son, Police Officer Peter Figoski, was killed.
“Our family will never forget the support we received from the NYPD after his death and the concerted effort to bring those responsible to justice. So many people and skills were involved that to attempt to list them all would inevitably lend to missing some, and we do not want that to happen. So a huge thank-you to all those who so successfully brought us to this day.
‘Won’t Forget Fellow Cops’
“We witnessed our legal system at work daily. The judge, the Court Officers, the Assistant District Attorneys and the jury of the accused perpetrator’s peers as well as the defense attorneys. It brought home to us how fortunate we are to live in a country where every effort is made to insure justice is served. To have all the work and effort pause for the moment in court when the jury foreperson is asked to read the verdict is a moment that was historical for us.
“And to Peter’s co-workers at the 75th Precinct, we will never forget your support, love and concern over the past 18 months. You truly are our other family.”
Homi of Hero Detectives James Nemorin and Rodney Andrews.
Prosecutors Again Argue for Execution of Killer of New York Detectives
By MOSI SECRET — Tuesday, June 25th, 2013 ‘The New York Times’
The long legal ordeal of Ronell Wilson, who was convicted seven years ago of murdering two undercover police detectives but then had his death sentence vacated, began anew on Monday, as prosecutors opened a second trial with the goal of having him executed.
In a packed courtroom in Federal District Court in Brooklyn, the lead prosecutor on the case, James G. McGovern, described the moments leading up to the shootings in stark terms.
On March 10, 2003, Mr. Wilson, a member of the Bloods gang, climbed in a car with James Nemorin and Rodney J. Andrews, detectives who had driven to Staten Island as part of a sting operation to buy illegal guns. He led the two men to a secluded neighborhood where he shot each of them in the back of the head. He dumped the bodies from the car and drove off, covered in blood.
Over the course of the next several weeks, the jury must decide whether to sentence Mr. Wilson, 31, whose guilt is not in question, to death or to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
New York State’s highest court struck down the death penalty in 2004, and no one other than Mr. Wilson has been sentenced to death in the state in a half-century, but federal prosecutors here can still seek to execute people convicted of federal crimes.
“It was that night that this man, Ronell Wilson, to impress members of his gang, to raise his status, blasted hollow-point bullets into their brains,” Mr. McGovern said, turning to point at Mr. Wilson. “They deserved a life. Now if justice is to be done, the defendant does not.”
Mr. McGovern talked slowly, pacing in small circles in front of the jury, pausing after each sentence to let the weight of the accusations against Mr. Wilson fall hard. He displayed photographs of the detectives on large screens in the courtroom, including one of Detective Andrews standing alongside his sons and wearing the same leather jacket he wore when he was murdered. Family members in the courtroom began to cry.
Lawyers for Mr. Wilson face an unusual burden, proving not that their client is innocent of the crimes but that there were enough mitigating circumstances to save him from a death sentence. Richard Jasper, who made his opening statement with the help of a slide presentation entitled “A Case for Life,” centered this defense on portraits of a troubled childhood defined by extreme neglect.
By age 6, according to the account, Mr. Wilson had been repeatedly abandoned by his crack-addicted mother; he was eventually placed in a psychiatric hospital, where he told a worker that he wanted to die. Mr. Wilson was hospitalized at least two more times, Mr. Jasper said.
Mr. Jasper sought to put the full weight of the death sentence on the shoulders of the jurors, calling the case “the most important decision of your entire life.” He said Mr. Wilson should die “on God’s time and not man’s time.”
The details of the case were familiar to most of the people in the courtroom. Mr. Wilson was convicted in 2006 and weeks later was sentenced to death, the first death sentence delivered in New York since 1954. In 2010 an appellate court ruled prosecutors had denied Mr. Wilson’s constitutional rights by inflaming the jury during closing arguments and tossed out the death sentence, while leaving the conviction in place.
The retrial took place even though Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis had written a letter to the Justice Department questioning whether it was worth the time and expense, given that Mr. Wilson was already certain to spend the rest of his life in prison.
Already the defense in the latest case, which is paid for by the government, has cost $1.6 million — and that does not include the cost of the prosecution or the courts in a trial that is expected to last more than a month. The retrial proved such an unusual spectacle that some viewers had to be diverted to an overflow room to watch on closed-circuit television.
It comes weeks after Mr. Wilson again made headlines, this time when it was discovered that he had been involved in a sexual relationship with a prison guard, Nancy Gonzalez, and had impregnated her. Ms. Gonzalez has given birth to their son and faces criminal charges stemming from the relationship.
By the end of the day on Monday, the prosecution had called three witnesses, including a former sergeant whose job it was to oversee the gun sting that night in 2003.
“It’s just like reliving it all over,” Detective Mechelle King, who was a close friend of Detective Andrews, said in an interview outside of the courtroom.
“Even though it’s 10 years, they don’t realize that 10 years to other people and 10 years to the family is a completely different time frame.”
NYPD undercover detective’s widow, children want death for cop-killer
‘My daughter was a baby in my arms and my boys were little kids in Disney World a week before my husband was murdered in Staten Island,’ Rose Nemorin said Monday, nodding toward her daughter, 12, and sons, 17 and 15. ‘But I wanted them to be here today. I wanted them to hear that their father died as a hero.’
By Denis Hamill — Tuesday, June 25th, 2013 ‘The New York Daily News’
(Op-Ed / Commentary)
Life and death.
A widow and her three children stood in a hallway outside a courtroom in Brooklyn where jurors would decide whether convicted cop killer Ronell Wilson will get the needle or spend the rest of life behind bars for killing her husband, NYPD detective James Nemorin, and his partner Rodney Andrews.
"My daughter was a baby in my arms and my boys were little kids in Disney World a week before my husband was murdered in Staten Island," Rose Nemorin said Monday, nodding toward her daughter, 12, and sons, 17 and 15. "But I wanted them to be here today. I wanted them to hear that their father died as a hero."
In the prosecution’s opening arguments, Assistant U.S. Attorney Jim McGovern laid out a powerful case for the death penalty. He detailed how undercover cops Nemorin and Andrews met with Wilson and three others to buy an illegal gun for $1,200. But Wilson — on the night of March 10, 2003 — suspected that the two men might be cops.
McGovern said Wilson sat in the back seat and ordered Andrews to drive. Once they reached St. Pauls Ave., he told him to park. Then he placed the muzzle of a .44-caliber pistol to the base of Nemorin’s head and fired a hollow-point slug into his brain.
“Boom!” McGovern shouted to the jury.
Then, he said, Wilson placed the barrel at the base of Andrews’ skull and shouted, “Where’s the money? Where’s the s--- at?”
As Andrews begged for his life, Wilson fired again.
Then McGovern asked the jury to vote for the death penalty because the murder was premeditated.
“I want to see the death penalty,” Rose Nemorin said after McGovern was done. “I want justice for my husband and my children’s father.”
Rose Nemorin and her children listened to defense attorney Richard Jasper plead for 31-year-old Ronell Wilson’s life. He presented a tale of woe about being raised by a crack- and booze-addicted mother in the Stapleton projects.
The cop’s widow wasn’t buying it. I wasn’t buying it.
I lived for a few years as a kid in the Jersey St. projects in Staten Island and although life wasn’t an episode of “Beverly Hills 90210,” the squalor didn’t pave the way for anyone I met there to execute two brave cops.
Sometimes alkie parents and squalor lead to a Frank McCourt writing “Angela’s Ashes.” Sometimes an orphanage coughs up a Babe Ruth. Sometimes poverty like they suffer in Haiti blesses this city with an immigrant like James Nemorin, who comes to New York City at 21, earns a degree in criminal justice and becomes a courageous cop.
Listen, I’m against the death penalty for a variety of reasons, but I do believe in justice. If I were a juror who believed in capital punishment, that lame defense argument about growing up neglected wouldn’t lighten my death vote by one single watt.
“On Father’s Day, like all of his birthdays, we went to the cemetery to lay flowers and say prayers and pay respects to James,” said Rose Nemorin. “I don’t think it’s fair that his killer is alive if my children’s father isn’t.”
Off-duty NYPD detective Paul Lipka dies of injuries from Staten Island motorcycle crash
By John M. Annese— Tuesday, June 25th, 2013 ‘The Staten Island Advance’ / Staten Island
STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. -- Paul Lipka, the off-duty NYPD detective gravely wounded in a Friday morning motorcycle crash in Livingston, has died of his injuries, according to police and hospital officials.
Lipka -- a 40-year-old West Brighton resident who was the partner of a hero NYPD officer slain in the line of duty in 2005 -- suffered severe head trauma after his motorcycle collided with a 2009 Nissan sedan making a left turn from Richmond Terrace onto Snug Harbor Road at 9:26 a.m. Friday.
"He passed away at 11 a.m. (Monday), with his family at his bedside," said Karen Sanicola, a spokeswoman for Richmond University Medical Center, West Brighton, where Lipka had been taken after the crash.
"It's tough. He was a great guy. He was a dedicated father," said Lipka's brother-in-law, Rene Rosario, outside the officer's West Brighton home Monday afternoon.
"He liked fishing, hunting, going camping, hiking. He was a great guy. A lot of his friends are going to miss him."
Lipka and his wife, Rosalinda, have three young children -- two daughters, ages 8 and 6, and a 1-year-old son, Rosario said.
"They knew that their father was injured," he said. "My sister is going to tell them today when she picks them up from day camp."
Lipka was on his way to work in Brooklyn when the crash took place, according to sources.
He and the driver of the sedan, Rene Torres, 43, were going in opposing directions on Richmond Terrace, and when the light turned green, Torres made a left turn, according to a source familiar with the investigation. A car in front of Lipka didn't move forward when the light turned green, so Lipka passed on the right, and ended up striking Torres' sedan car near the front passenger-side wheel-well and door, the source said.
He was wearing a helmet, but it appeared to have come off during the crash, the source said.
Torres, who suffered a shoulder injury, remained on the scene and passed a Breathalyzer test, sources said.
Lipka was the partner of hero cop Dillon Stewart, who was slain in the line of duty in Brooklyn on Nov. 28, 2005. Stewart and Lipka were pursuing a car with stolen license plate, and its driver, Allan Cameron, opened fire through a window.
One bullet hit Stewart in his armpit, which wasn't covered by his bulletproof vest. Stewart managed to continue the chase until Lipka was able to shoot back, but realized he had been shot when he tried to chase Cameron on foot. Stewart died during surgery.
Said Rosario, "He was dedicated to his job. He was a dedicated officer, a decorated officer."
Brooklyn District Attorney's Office
DA Hynes sued in another botched case; innocent man spent year in jail
By SELIM ALGAR — Tuesday, June 25th, 2013 ‘The New York Post’
The botched prosecutions are starting to add up.
In the latest multimillion-dollar lawsuit to follow a case allegedly bungled by Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes’ office, a man who spent a year in jail for a robbery he didn’t commit is suing the city for $15 million in Brooklyn federal court.
Ronald Bozeman, 66, was busted for a $9,000 armed heist outside a bank near Atlantic Terminal in 2011 after victims testified that he was the gunman.
But the shaky witnesses later changed their story and told a second grand jury that another man was actually the assailant.
Despite the discrepancy, Bozeman was charged with the crime and spent a year in jail before a Brooklyn Supreme Court judge tossed the case in December.
“This prosecution has been a fiasco,” wrote Bozeman attorney Mark Bederow in a 2012 letter to the Brooklyn DA before the case was tossed.
In the suit, Bozeman’s attorneys argue that Hynes staffers were coaching witnesses to tailor their testimony against him without regard for the facts.
“Over a long period of time, the [DA’s office] has engaged in an unlawful office-wide policy, culture and practice of aggressively flaunting the constitutions of the United States and the state of New York,” the suit claims.
Bozeman’s suit blasts both the Brooklyn DA and the NYPD, alleging comprehensive ineptitude.
“The conduct of the NYPD and the [DA’s office] in the within case is part of an ongoing pattern of corruption, indifference and ineptitude that is the result of a system-wide lack of proper training, guidance and supervision,” the suit maintains.
Bozeman’s case is just the latest black eye for the beleaguered Hynes as he tries to steady himself for a bruising re-election campaign.
Jabbar Collins — who spent 15 years in prison for the murder of a rabbi before a judge set him free, citing prosecutorial missteps by Hynes staff — is suing the city for $150 million.
He was freed after Brooklyn DA staffers were found to have coerced witnesses and withheld evidence from the defense.
Collins’ lawyer, Joel Rudin, has also alleged that prosecutors for Hynes, who has been DA since 1989, used hotel rooms as private jail cells to hide away reluctant witnesses and coerce them into giving false testimony.
“Hynes’ office was running a private jail system where witnesses were illegally interrogated and forcibly detained indefinitely,” Rudin wrote in a federal-court filing.
Four men charged with raping and pimping a young Orthodox Jewish woman also saw their charges dropped last June after Brooklyn prosecutors failed to disclose that their accuser took back her accusations.
In March, David Ranta, 58, was freed after 22 years behind bars after Hynes’ integrity unit found he was wrongfully prosecuted as a result of shoddy police work.
Hynes argues that many of the reversals were initiated by internal investigations into wrongdoing.
NY / NJ Port Authority Police Dept.
PA officer rocked by fraud rap
By PHILIP MESSING — Tuesday, June 25th, 2013 ‘The New York Post’
A Port Authority cop who moonlighted in a heavy- metal band while claiming to be disabled was indicted on a charge of insurance fraud yesterday, authorities said.
PA Police Officer Christopher Inserra, who performed as the lead singer of a Brooklyn band, Cousin Sleaze, stands accused by a Brooklyn federal grand jury of defrauding the AFLAC insurance company and the PA, according to the indictment unsealed yesterday.
Inserra, 31, who was arrested on the charges in March, was accused of scheming to defraud the insurance company and his employer between June 2010 and March 2012 by falsely reporting a “debilitating injury while on duty to the lower bicep and elbow region of his right arm,” according to the two-count indictment.
Despite the supposed injury, Inserra performed regularly in a four-member rock band, the indictment states.
Investigators for the PA’s inspector general videotaped Inserra using “his right arm in a manner that was inconsistent with his claimed injury.”
He could face 30 years in prison.
New York State
Gun-Bill Amendment Lifts 7-Bullet Limit For Police Retirees
By MARK TOOR — Monday, June 25th, 2013 ‘The Chief / Civil Service Leader’
In a last-minute breakthrough, the State Senate joined the Assembly June 21 in passing an amendment championed by law-enforcement unions that would exempt police retirees from limits on magazine sizes imposed by the gun-control bill Governor Cuomo whipped through the Legislature early this year.
A 10-Round Limit
The Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act, passed Jan. 15 and amended in March, forbids the possession of magazines that hold more than 10 rounds. The maximum number of rounds it says can be loaded into a magazine is seven. Standard weapons used by law-enforcement officers use magazines holding up to 15 rounds.
After its passage, police unions had expressed consternation that it would make it illegal for retired officers to carry the weapons they used on the job. The unions noted that smaller-capacity magazines do not exist for many weapons, effectively outlawing them.
“The amendment passed by the Legislature corrects an obvious flaw in the SAFE Act which would have made criminals out of all law-enforcement retirees for the mere continued possession of their agency-issued firearm,” Roy Richter, president of the Captains Endowment Association, said in an e-mail after Senate passage.
The amendment would allow a retired New York or Federal law-enforcement officer to possess “large-capacity ammunition feeding devices issued to or purchased by such officer in the course of his or her official duties.” Possession of assault weapons is permissible under the same conditions. The retiree must have qualified with the weapon within a year of retirement, and it must be registered.
Mr. Cuomo took advantage of the climate created by the December 2012 murder of 20 first-graders and six adult staff members at a Connecticut school by a mentally-ill man wielding a semi-automatic rifle by drafting the Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act in secret and moving it through the Legislature faster than a speeding bullet.
Passed Without Hearings
He invoked a message of emergency, which allowed the Legislature to skip the normal three-way waiting period before a bill could be considered. So it was passed with no hearings, no public input and minimal debate. Flaws in the bill started showing up immediately.
Critics said Mr. Cuomo had sought to become the first Governor in the nation to pass stricter gun laws as a way of bolstering his expected 2016 presidential bid. Among their beefs was the possibility that it would stop movie and TV productions that use firearms from filming in New York. They also said the law contained mental-health reporting requirements that would discourage people from seeking help.
The New York State Sheriffs Association criticized aspects of the law, saying its definition of “assault weapon” was too broad, banning firearms that are legitimately used in hunting and target-shooting. Several lawsuits have been filed challenging the SAFE Act.
The Assembly passed the amendment in May, but it was held up in the Senate by a dispute among Republicans, some of whom believed the bill should be repealed in its entirety. They finally passed it in the early-morning hours shortly before adjourning.
The bill now goes to Mr. Cuomo for his signature. He has been essentially silent on the controversy raised by the law, and has not said whether he would sign the amendment.
N.J. Assembly passes several bills dealing with guns and violence
By Matt Friedman — Tuesday, June 25th, 2013 ‘The Newark Star-Ledger’ / Newark, NJ
TRENTON — The state Assembly today passed several bills intended to curb gun violence, including one that would restructure how the state issues firearms purchase permits.
The most controversial bill (S2723), which is sponsored by Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D-Gloucester) in the upper house, would encode the permits onto driver’s licenses and create a system that would allow for instant background checks when buying guns.
The bill would also require gun buyers to prove they’ve completed a safety training course and require dealers to log Internet ammunition sales in real time. It passed 43-31 with one abstention.
“We remain all too familiar with the terrible tragedy the gaps in the law can bring,” Assembly Majority Leader Lou Greenwald (D-Camden), a sponsor, said in a statement. “With this effort, we’ll be making great strides toward making our state safer by updating the rules for gun purchases and permitting and sales of ammunition over the Internet. These are common sense changes that will make our state safer without restricting legal and responsible gun ownership.”
Gun rights advocates oppose the measure and claim Assembly leaders violated house rules in moving it through committee. Assembly Democrats say the gun rights advocates do not have a case. The bill needs to pass the Senate one more time before heading to Gov. Chris Christie’s desk.
Another bill (A3788) passed by the Assembly would ban sales of the .50-caliber rifle – the most powerful weapon available for civilian use.
“In a post-9/11 society, there is simply no reason for .50-caliber weapons to be available for civilian use,” said its sponsor, Assemblyman Peter Barnes (D-Middlesex), in a statement.
The .50-caliber ban heads to Christie. Although the bill did not have widespread Republican support, Christie made banning the rifle part of his own package intended to reduce violence.
Other bills the Assembly passed would:
• Write into law a state regulation exempting firearms permits from the Open Public Records Act. The bill, which is headed to the governor, is a response to a New York State newspaper’s publication of a map of local gun owners (A3788).
• Allow law enforcement agencies to impound cars in which the driver or passenger possesses an illegal gun or a gun used to a commit a crime (S2468).
• Require the state Department of Education to prepare and distribute an informational pamphlet on how parents can limit children’s exposure to violence in the media (S2715).
• Create a state study commission on violence (S2430).
Of those four, only A3788 and S2468 head to Christie’s desk. The other two need a final vote in the state Senate.
Rethinking Gun Control
Surprising findings from a comprehensive report on gun violence.
By William Saletan — Tuesday, June 25th, 2013 ‘Slate Magazine’
Background checks are back. Last week, Vice President Joe Biden said that five U.S. senators—enough to change the outcome—have told him they’re looking for a way to switch their votes and pass legislation requiring a criminal background check for the purchase of a firearm. Sen. Joe Manchin, the West Virginia Democrat who led the fight for the bill, is firing back at the National Rifle Association with a new TV ad. The White House, emboldened by polls that indicate damage to senators who voted against the bill, is pushing Congress to reconsider it.
The gun control debate is certainly worth reopening. But if we’re going to reopen it, let’s not just rethink the politics. Let’s take another look at the facts. Earlier this year, President Obama ordered the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to assess the existing research on gun violence and recommend future studies. That report, prepared by the Institute of Medicine and the National Research Council, is now complete. Its findings won’t entirely please the Obama administration or the NRA, but all of us should consider them. Here’s a list of the 10 most salient or surprising takeaways.
1. The United States has an indisputable gun violence problem. According to the report, “the U.S. rate of firearm-related homicide is higher than that of any other industrialized country: 19.5 times higher than the rates in other high-income countries.”
2. Most indices of crime and gun violence are getting better, not worse. “Overall crime rates have declined in the past decade, and violent crimes, including homicides specifically, have declined in the past 5 years,” the report notes. “Between 2005 and 2010, the percentage of firearm-related violent victimizations remained generally stable.” Meanwhile, “firearm-related death rates for youth ages 15 to 19 declined from 1994 to 2009.” Accidents are down, too: “Unintentional firearm-related deaths have steadily declined during the past century. The number of unintentional deaths due to firearm-related incidents accounted for less than 1 percent of all unintentional fatalities in 2010.”
3. We have 300 million firearms, but only 100 million are handguns. According to the report, “In 2007, one estimate placed the total number of firearms in the country at 294 million: ‘106 million handguns, 105 million rifles, and 83 million shotguns.’ ” This translates to nearly nine guns for every 10 people, a per capita ownership rate nearly 50 percent higher than the next most armed country. But American gun ownership is concentrated, not universal: In a December 2012 Gallup poll, “43 percent of those surveyed reported having a gun in the home.”
4. Handguns are the problem. Despite being outnumbered by long guns, “Handguns are used in more than 87 percent of violent crimes,” the report notes. In 2011, “handguns comprised 72.5 percent of the firearms used in murder and non-negligent manslaughter incidents.” Why do criminals prefer handguns? One reason, according to surveys of felons, is that they’re “easily concealable.”
5. Mass shootings aren’t the problem. “The number of public mass shootings of the type that occurred at Sandy Hook Elementary School accounted for a very small fraction of all firearm-related deaths,” says the report. “Since 1983 there have been 78 events in which 4 or more individuals were killed by a single perpetrator in 1 day in the United States, resulting in 547 victims and 476 injured persons.” Compare that with the 335,000 gun deaths between 2000 and 2010 alone.
6. Gun suicide is a bigger killer than gun homicide. From 2000 to 2010, “firearm-related suicides significantly outnumbered homicides for all age groups, annually accounting for 61 percent of the more than 335,600 people who died from firearm-related violence in the United States,” says the report. Firearm sales are often a warning: Two studies found that “a small but significant fraction of gun suicides are committed within days to weeks after the purchase of a handgun, and both also indicate that gun purchasers have an elevated risk of suicide for many years after the purchase of the gun.”
7. Guns are used for self-defense often and effectively. “Almost all national survey estimates indicate that defensive gun uses by victims are at least as common as offensive uses by criminals, with estimates of annual uses ranging from about 500,000 to more than 3 million per year … in the context of about 300,000 violent crimes involving firearms in 2008,” says the report. The three million figure is probably high, “based on an extrapolation from a small number of responses taken from more than 19 national surveys.” But a much lower estimate of 108,000 also seems fishy, “because respondents were not asked specifically about defensive gun use.” Furthermore, “Studies that directly assessed the effect of actual defensive uses of guns (i.e., incidents in which a gun was 'used' by the crime victim in the sense of attacking or threatening an offender) have found consistently lower injury rates among gun-using crime victims compared with victims who used other self-protective strategies.”
8. Carrying guns for self-defense is an arms race. The prevalence of firearm violence near “drug markets … could be a consequence of drug dealers carrying guns for self-defense against thieves or other adversaries who are likely to be armed,” says the report. In these communities, “individuals not involved in the drug markets have similar incentives for possessing guns.” According to a Pew Foundation report, “the vast majority of gun owners say that having a gun makes them feel safer. And far more today than in 1999 cite protection—rather than hunting or other activities—as the major reason for why they own guns.”
9. Denying guns to people under restraining orders saves lives. “Two-thirds of homicides of ex- and current spouses were committed [with] firearms,” the report observes. “In locations where individuals under restraining orders to stay away from current or ex-partners are prohibited from access to firearms, female partner homicide is reduced by 7 percent.”
10. It isn’t true that most gun acquisitions by criminals can be blamed on a few bad dealers. The report concedes that in 1998, “1,020 of 83,272 federally licensed retailers (1.2 percent) accounted for 57.4 percent of all guns traced by the ATF.” However, “Gun sales are also relatively concentrated; approximately 15 percent of retailers request 80 percent of background checks on gun buyers conducted by the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.” Researchers have found that “the share of crime gun traces attributed to these few dealers only slightly exceeded their share of handgun sales, which are almost equally concentrated among a few dealers.” Volume, not laxity, drives the number of ill-fated sales.
These conclusions don’t line up perfectly with either side’s agenda. That’s a good reason to take them seriously—and to fund additional data collection and research that have been blocked by Congress over politics. Yes, the facts will surprise you. That’s why you should embrace them.
Oakland, Alameda County to pay protesters $1 million
By Henry K. Lee — Tuesday, June 25th, 2013 ‘The San Francisco Chronicle’ / San Francisco, CA
Oakland and Alameda County have agreed to pay more than $1 million and reform their crowd-control policies to settle a lawsuit filed by 150 people who were arrested together - and then held for hours - while protesting the sentence given to the BART police officer who fatally shot Oscar Grant in 2009.
The federal class-action suit accused Oakland police of violating their own policies by failing to order demonstrators to disperse before "kettling" and arresting them on suspicion of unlawful assembly on Nov. 5, 2010, in a neighborhood east of Lake Merritt.
Instead of being cited and released for the misdemeanor offense, the protesters said, they were held in sheriff's department buses for hours while handcuffed, leading some people to urinate on the floor or themselves. Demonstrators were held overnight in crowded jail cells because deputies were overwhelmed by the number of arrestees.
The tentative $1.025 million settlement was announced by attorneys Monday and is expected to be finalized in September after approval by the individual plaintiffs. Alameda County has agreed to pay $175,000.
The deal - which also requires the agencies to adopt policies for the "expeditious citation and release" of those arrested for low-level misdemeanors - draws to a close the first of several suits filed against Oakland and Alameda County over mass arrests during rallies related to Grant's killing and Occupy Oakland.
Rachel Lederman, an attorney with the National Lawyers Guild in San Francisco, which filed the suit that was recently settled, said she hoped the agreement would allow for unhindered First Amendment expression in Oakland.
But she said officers had repeatedly violated department procedures adopted in 2004 after a rally against the Iraq War outside the Port of Oakland. During the 2003 protest, officers fired nonlethal projectiles at protesters including wooden bullets, stinger grenades and beanbags.
Oakland police were criticized by a court-appointed independent monitor for their response to Occupy Oakland protests in fall 2011, during which officers fired nonlethal munitions at demonstrators.
In January 2012, 409 people were unlawfully arrested after law-enforcement officers surrounded them without a dispersal order outside the YMCA on Broadway in Oakland, according to a separate lawsuit filed by eight Occupy Oakland protesters that is still pending.
Last fall, then-Police Chief Howard Jordan said he had ordered "major reforms" in how police deal with large crowds, including having smaller groups of officers go into crowds to weed out problem protesters.
Lederman said the settlement ensures federal court enforcement of the department's crowd-control policy for up to seven years.
Oakland police referred questions to the city attorney's office, which did not respond to requests for comment.
Alameda County Sheriff Greg Ahern said his deputies now have better technology and procedures to process arrestees in large protests. "We believe we'll be able to manage these large groups in a much more efficient manner," he said.
The protesters were rallying against the two-year sentence a Los Angeles judge handed down that day to former BART Officer Johannes Mehserle for fatally shooting Grant early New Year's Day 2009.
Marching to BART
After a peaceful rally outside Oakland City Hall, demonstrators tried to march to BART's Fruitvale Station, where Grant was killed, but were hemmed in by hundreds of police officers. The plaintiffs said police wrongfully arrested everyone present, including legal observers.
Police have said protesters smashed the windows of six cars, tore down fences, threw rocks and bottles at police, and fought with officers. Two businesses were damaged.
Ultimately, Deputy Chief Eric Breshears ordered Capt. David Downing to surround and arrest the protesters without declaring an unlawful assembly first, according to radio traffic obtained by the lawyers guild.
"The first opportunity you can, set up a surround to arrest," Breshears told Downing. "We'd like to employ that."
"Do we want to make announcements for unlawful assembly, or they're just already under arrest?" Downing, now a deputy chief, asked Breshears.
"Yeah, affirm, based on their activity over here and the fights that occurred and the vandalism that's occurred, affirm it's an unlawful assembly," Breshears replied. "We want to arrest everybody within that circle there."
Plaintiff Katie Loncke, 26, of Oakland said she hoped the agreement would allow protesters to "be able to engage in dissent without fear of arrest."
The deal calls for Loncke and three other plaintiffs representing the class to receive $9,000 each, with the others splitting $639,000. Their arrest records would be sealed and destroyed. Their attorneys would receive $350,000.
Underwater Drones Are Multiplying Fast
Robots Are Invading the Sea for All Kinds of Inspections—With an Eye on Prey
By WILL CONNORS — Tuesday, June 25th, 2013 ‘The Wall Street Journal’ / New York, NY
The next army of unmanned drones are scurrying beneath the ocean's surface.
Hundreds of small camera-equipped robots developed by a range of companies are sending video and other data to laptop and tablet screens above.
What began as a niche industry for wealthy hobbyists has matured into a fast-growing market catering to a wide variety of industries and government agencies.
Unmanned marine vehicles have been around for years—the U.S. Navy and the Coast Guard, for example, use them to help detect mines and thwart drug smugglers. Big military contractors such as Boeing Co. BA and General Dynamics Corp. offer torpedo-like underwater vehicles for the military and other government agencies.
Now, a new wave of independent companies are developing cheaper, smaller models—typically the size of a football—meant for commercial and recreational use, from inspecting oil rigs and fish farms to helping hunt for sunken treasure.
But as the industry grows, drone-making companies are also running into hurdles. The companies must figure out how to market these technologies for applications beyond traditional uses, compete with bigger defense contractors, and keep costs low enough to appeal beyond deep-pocketed buyers.
Operating machines underwater is no easy task. Motors sometimes malfunction, causing the robots to sink, or a previously undiscovered crack can cause critical leaks. Last week, a team from Memorial University in Newfoundland lost contact with an autonomous underwater vehicle that looks like a yellow torpedo and was worth about $165,000.
Then there is the prey. Two years ago a shark attacked a sea-gliding robot piloted by Liquid Robotics Inc., causing the device used to collect data for BP to malfunction. Sam MacDonald, co-founder and president of Ontario company DeepTrekker Inc., said a barracuda "took a quick bite" out of a demo device in Antigua "but decided against making it meal." The robot survived.
"Because of the dangers of doing things underwater you're going to see these robots do more practical things," said Durval Tavares, the chief executive of AquaBotix Technology Corp.
His company sells an underwater remote-operated vehicle, or ROV, called the HydroView, which can be controlled from a laptop or mobile device and cost between $4,000 and $8,000. Mr. Tavares, who started the Fall River, Mass., company in 2011 after 20 years working at the U.S. Navy Laboratories, says he has sold near 200 devices to customers including a Florida police department that used them for underwater inspections.
One of the bigger companies in this field is VideoRay LLC, which sells its ROV to coast guards, the U.S. Corps of Engineers and other commercial and military bodies. The Pottstown, Pa., company's devices have been used to search for underwater mines, assess hurricane damage and make hull inspections for oil companies.
VideoRay uses specially made software, joysticks or smartphones to pilot its robots. Stripped-down ROVs sell for $7,000, but the versions sold to governments and oil companies are priced around $150,000. Scott Bentley, VideoRay's co-founder and president, says the 40-employee company sells from 200 to 400 underwater drones a year and makes about $10 million in sales annually.
Both Aquabotix and VideoRay are working on their own version of "automated underwater vehicles," which don't require someone remotely controlling them the whole time.
Another sign of popularity in the devices is a growing community of ROV builders who want the technology to be open sourced, available for scientists and explorers who can't afford more expensive models.
OpenROV sells an underwater ROV kit for $850. Co-founder David Lang said the Berkeley, Calif., company has sold several hundred so far to scientists and hobbyists. The project is "like making a smartphone waterproof and giving it thrusters," Mr. Lang said.
"We want to be able to have an ROV that is approaching the performance of some of these more expensive commercial ROVs at 1/10th of the cost."These ROV makers are finding a diverse group of interested customers.
DeepTrekker, which makes an 18-pound ROV starting at $3,000, has sold devices to customers such as Florida Power and Light Co. to examine inside a nuclear reactor and Disney World to inspect water filtration systems.
At a recent military trade show in Canada, DeepTrekker's Ms. MacDonald said several military agencies approached her about the ROV. One agency asked if she could put a weapons deployment system on it. The company is working on that request.
Ms. MacDonald has also had more nefarious-seeming inquiries. One potential customer asked questions about DeepTrekker's maximum payload and whether the ROV could be operated from 10,000 feet away. Ms. MacDonald suspected they might be drug-runners, but they never made an offer.