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Bloomberg says he'd veto proposal for NYPD monitor

Wednesday - 3/20/2013, 7:44pm  ET

FILE- In this Dec. 28, 2012 file photo, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, left, and Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly speak to the media after a Police Academy graduation ceremony in New York. New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn announced on Tuesday, March 19, 2013 that New York City lawmakers have reached "broad agreement" on a plan to create an inspector general to oversee the New York Police Department. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)

JENNIFER PELTZ
Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) -- In a politically charged standoff over police oversight in the nation's biggest city, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Wednesday he'd veto a plan to put the New York Police Department under an outside watchdog's scrutiny, calling it a threat to hard-won safety.

But City Council Speaker Christine Quinn -- a frequent Bloomberg ally who's been seen as likely to get his support to succeed him as mayor next year -- said she'd guarantee a veto override if needed to create an inspector general for police, a proposal fueled by criticism of the police department's widespread use of the tactic known as stop and frisk and its surveillance of Muslims, spying revealed in a series of stories by The Associated Press.

A day after Quinn signaled the measure would pass the council after months in limbo, dividing lines were dug deeper over the plan, which would install a monitor with the power to subpoena documents and witnesses and the mandate to look at the procedures and policies of the nation's biggest police department.

Bloomberg urged lawmakers to oppose the plan, saying it would usher in an era of second-guessing for a police force that has worked to drive killings to record lows.

"Make no mistake about it: This bill jeopardizes that progress and will put the lives of New Yorkers and our police officers at risk," he said at the opening of a computer data center in a downtown high-rise -- an example, he said, of economic activity flourishing in a city seen as safe. "...We cannot afford to play election-year politics with the safety of our city."

Quinn, however, said there was "absolutely no validity" to suggesting that more monitoring would compromise crime-fighting. She argues that closer scrutiny could instead help policing by building public confidence in officers.

"We have a situation right now in this city, whether we like it or not, where some of the practices of the Police Department have caused significant rifts between police and the community," she said at a news conference.

Quinn and colleagues backing the inspector general proposal reached an agreement on it Tuesday, positioning it to move toward a vote in the coming weeks. Quinn said Wednesday that talks were continuing on other proposals to set new rules surrounding stop and frisk: They would require officers to explain why they are stopping people and would give people more latitude to sue over stops they considered biased, among other provisions.

The developments come during a federal trial over the department's use of stop and frisk, and they follow AP stories that 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. Adding to the attention surrounding stop and frisk, violent protests rocked a Brooklyn neighborhood last week after police stopped a teen and ended up shooting him dead; they say he pulled out a gun.

Broached last year, the inspector general and stop-and-frisk proposals have become heated issues in November's competitive mayoral election; Bloomberg is term-limited.

Quinn, a top Democratic candidate, has faced pressure from civil rights and minority advocates and from some of her Democratic rivals to get the measures passed. One Democratic contender, Bill de Blasio, pressed the need for an inspector general at a news conference Tuesday, before Quinn announced lawmakers had agreed on it. Democrat Bill Thompson's campaign said the former city comptroller also supports the idea.

But some other hopefuls are speaking out against the plan for a monitor, including Democratic former Councilman Sal Albanese and Republicans John Catsimatidis, a billionaire businessman, and Joseph Lhota, a former chairman of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. Former Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrion's campaign said the Democrat-turned-independent, who's running on the Independence Party line and seeking the GOP nomination, also opposes the IG idea.

Republican George McDonald, who runs an organization that helps the homeless, is inclined to support the proposal but needs more details, a spokesman said.

The NYPD has said its surveillance of Muslims is legal and that stop and frisk has helped combat crime and save lives. The term refers to the police practice of stopping, questioning and sometimes patting down people who are seen as acting suspiciously but who don't necessarily meet the probable-cause standard for arrest.

Many government agencies, including the FBI and CIA, have inspectors general, or officials with investigative powers to explore conduct within the agency. So do the Los Angeles Police Department and other forces.

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