NYPD union slams police reform bills, calls city council unqualified

Reuters / Eduardo Munoz
As New York City Council prepares to review police reform legislation, the city police union head says lawmakers seeking to increase police accountability "have neither the expertise nor the experience to establish" crime-fighting policy.

The reform measures going before the City Council on Monday include bills that would demand cops receive verbal or written consent prior to searching an individual without a warrant or probable cause. Another would imprison officers who use chokeholds, such as the one used in the death of Eric Garner last summer in Staten Island. The chokehold bill has enough support in the Council to pass, but it is opposed by Mayor Bill de Blasio since the maneuver is already discouraged by internal New York Police Department policy.

Yet a 2014 report by a city agency found there had been over 1,000 complaints of New York City police misconduct in recent years regarding officers’ use of chokeholds. NYPD’s patrol guidelines prohibit the restraining move, defined as “any pressure to the throat or windpipe, which may prevent or hinder breathing or reduce intake of air.”

READ MORE: Appeal filed requesting details from Eric Garner grand jury proceedings

As of late last week, the search-consent bill had 24 sponsors, two short of a majority in the 51-member Council, though non-sponsors can vote for legislation.

A police-identification bill ‒ which would require cops to offer their full name, rank, precinct and Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB) number during a search or traffic stop ‒ has enough sponsors to pass, according to Capital New York.

De Blasio, elected in 2013 after campaigning on police reform, has not endorsed either measure, known collectively as the Right to Know Act.

The head official of the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association (PBA) tore into the legislators' attempt at reform, going so far as to say that city lawmakers have no business wading into oversight of the NYPD, controversially described by former Mayor Michael Bloomberg in 2011 as the "seventh biggest army in the world."

“These pieces of legislation have been proposed by individuals who have neither the expertise nor the experience to establish policy in the dangerous business of fighting crime,” PBA President Patrick Lynch said in a statement over the weekend, according to the New York Post.

“Policing policies must be left to the police management who understand the intricacies and difficulties of complex legal issues and the appropriate use of crime-fighting tactics.”

The other bills on the council's agenda on Monday would allow the following: sanction NYPD officers' use of "injurious" physical force "as is proportionally necessary," but only to protect themselves or others from threat of injury or death; require the NYPD to complete annual reports on how often officers use force, in the precinct location of the 200 officers most cited in the past by the CCRB and in the city's top 35 crime areas; establish a task force to study the police body camera program, and require the NYPD to offer quarterly reports on the use of force by officers and how often use of force occurs with 'quality of life' offenses.

None of the six bills have enough support among the council, according to Capital New York.

READ MORE: NYPD complaints sink, but false statements spike – review board

The New York Civil Liberties Union called the measures part of an "unfinished" effort to reform the NYPD following strides made in recent years to curb the department's 'stop and frisk' program ‒ an aggressive, race-based policing tactic deemed a violation of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments by a federal judge in 2013.

“Too often, New Yorkers are subjected to police encounters in which they are provided no information about the person stopping them or the basis for the interaction," the NYCLU said in written testimony that will be submitted to the Council on Monday.

The group said the consent bill should pass, as “New Yorkers have often misunderstood the extent of their privacy rights during a consensual search, and police officers exploit that misunderstanding.”

The council's review of the reform bills comes a week after de Blasio and Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito announced the NYPD would hire 1,300 new uniformed officers by June 2016.

Councilman Rory Lancman, sponsor of three of the reform bills, said the police accountability measures have "everything to do with the fact that we are fast approaching the one-year anniversary of Eric Garner’s death and the public rightly wants to know what we have done to make things better."