Editorial: Don't make NYPD serve three masters
Suddenly, everybody wants a piece of the NYPD. So Monday Mayor Michael Bloomberg swooped into police headquarters to stand his ground with a backup of law enforcement heavies -- including former Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau.
The mayor is upset in particular about two City Council bills that could undermine the department's effectiveness. The council should listen to his warnings.
One is a bill that would let citizens sue the NYPD for practices that have a "disparate impact" on specific groups -- even if the discrimination is unintentional. Bloomberg pointed to a recent situation when cops were sent into public housing after a citywide shooting outbreak, a move with a disparate impact on minorities. Why the focus on public housing? Because many of the shootings happened in public housing, Bloomberg said. The disparate impact bill could block such textbook policing.
The other bill, championed by Council Speaker Christine Quinn, calls for an inspector general to ride herd on the department. Unfortunately, an IG might also wind up handcuffing the agency by dividing authority between the police commissioner and the IG.
This is playing out in the wake of a heated federal trial in which Judge Shira Schiendlin heard testimony that the NYPD stop-and-frisk program was run in a racially biased way. The judge hasn't yet ruled, but she could appoint a special monitor to also help run the force. The result could be a three-way power split. Disaster!
Much of the stop-and-frisk outcry is because the program inadvertently busts large numbers of minority kids with weed in their pockets when white kids with weed are seldom bothered. Police Commissioner Ray Kelly and the New York Civil Liberties Union favor decriminalization.
Albany could have eased that problem by passing a law to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana, but a bill to do that died in the Senate last week. So now, instead of fixing a program that needed repairs, the NYPD could find itself answering to three masters. The mayor is right to fight back -- and the council needs to help him.