By WENDY RUDERMAN
Published: October 10, 2012
“Outbursts are prohibited,” City Councilman Peter F. Vallone Jr. warned as a hearing on bills centered largely on the New York Police Department’s controversial stop-and-frisk practices began on Wednesday morning.
But it did not take long for the calm to be disturbed. The hearing, which stretched on for nearly six hours, featured a series of outbursts, squabbles and sharp exchanges.
The hearing, before the Public Safety Committee, included testimony from about a dozen people on four bills aimed at police reform — three of which deal with street stops. The fourth bill would create an Office of Inspector General to monitor the Police Department, a measure both Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly oppose, arguing there is enough oversight already.
Most of the negative remarks were directed at Michael Best, the mayor’s counselor, who testified against the bills on behalf of Mr. Bloomberg and the department.
Councilman Jumaane D. Williams, a Brooklyn Democrat and a lead sponsor of the bills, collectively known as the Community Safety Act, voiced his frustration that Commissioner Kelly and Mr. Bloomberg did not attend the hearing. Mr. Williams likened them to 5-year-olds throwing temper tantrums and refusing to come to the table.
Mr. Best shot back: “We have discussed these issues with the Council on many, many occasions, and it’s unfair to characterize what we are doing here as a temper tantrum, which is wholly inaccurate.”
Mr. Williams responded, “There is a temper tantrum,” as Speaker Christine C. Quinn, who attended the hearing, placed her hand on his shoulder in an apparent gesture to calm him down.
“We’re not going away until changes have occurred,” he said.
The bills that address the stop-and-frisk tactic would do several things:
¶ Require police officers, when conducting stops, to identify themselves, provide their name and rank, and explain the reason for the stop.
¶ Seek to add teeth to an existing ban on racial profiling.
¶ Require that officers inform individuals of their right to refuse a search and obtain proof of their consent, if granted, in cases in which there is no other legal basis to search an individual.
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