Swing-vote City Councilman to push for NYPD oversight

August 8, 2013 5:33:59 AM PDT
As a City Hall faceoff over creating new oversight for police heads for a make-or-break vote later this month, a lawmaker who had been seen as a potentially crucial swing vote made clear Wednesday he's standing by his support for the legislation.

City Councilman Erik Dilan scheduled a news conference Thursday to elaborate on his views, ahead of a veto override vote expected Aug. 22.

Dilan's declaration could represent a setback for Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has been trying to persuade lawmakers to back off the measures. They would establish an inspector general for police and more latitude for discriminatory policing lawsuits - together, the most aggressive moves in years to give outsiders more openings to scrutinize and challenge the workings of the nation's biggest police force.

Supporters say the provisions would increase police accountability and foster public trust, which they say has eroded amid the New York Police Department's heavy use of the stop-and-frisk tactic and its widespread spying on Muslims - surveillance that was revealed in stories by The Associated Press. But Bloomberg, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly and other critics say the measures would hamper a force that has worked to wrestle crime down to historic lows.

The legislation passed in June, but the lawsuit part passed with just exactly the 34 votes needed to override a veto; the inspector general piece got more. Among those voting "yes" on both was Dilan, who represents a Brooklyn district where stop-and-frisk encounters are prevalent.

"Anybody that is voting for this item certainly does not want to see a weakened police department . but we certainly do not want to see our constituents disrespected in the ways they have been disrespected," he said as he voted.

But Dilan had since been considered something of a question mark, as he said after the vote that he might reconsider if important new facts emerged. He also said, however, that it would be difficult to change his mind.

Bloomberg's aides say he'll continue pressing his case with lawmakers.

Under the legislation, the inspector general could examine and recommend, but not compel, changes to police policies and practices.

The legislation also would allow more latitude for state court lawsuits claiming police targeted people because of their race, sexual orientation or certain other factors. The suits couldn't seek money, just court orders to change policing.