Sparks flew yesterday at a packed New York City Council hearing on the NYPD’s controversial stop, question and frisk policy when an African-American law maker told one of her council colleagues “I’m not one of your boys.”
The flare-up came after Harlem Councilman Robert Jackson (D) referred to an audio clip obtained by The Nation revealed officers calling a young man “a mutt” while questioning the mayor’s lawyer, Michael Best, who was testifying on the legality of laws the council is considering on regulating how police conduct stops.
“What I’m saying to you, and I know you’re not the commissioner, is that it’s not working and it needs to be totally reformed, “ said Jackson with a raised voice.
Queens Councilman Peter Vallone, Jr. (D) responded to Jackson saying that members should refrain from making long speeches. That was when Bronx Councilmember Helen Foster (D) said Vallone defended the NYPD in his opening statement earlier at the hearing. She added: “I don’t work for you. I’m not one of your boys.”
The Council is considering the Community Safety Act, sponsored by Brooklyn Councilman Jumaane Williams (D), aimed at regulating how police stops are done across the city. Part of the law would allow people whom police approach to refuse a search after asking for their consent. Another provision would create an Office of the Inspector General at the NYPD to ensure that the department is following the law.
Michael Best, counselor to the mayor, testified for the City saying that the proposed laws will leave the fate of policing city streets up to judges rather than the NYPD and would be “invalid if enacted.”
“We believe that the vast majority of officers do their jobs professionally, including when they do stop, question and frisk,” Best said.
But that wasn’t a view shared by Djibril Toure who says he was stopped and frisked in his Bed-Stuy neighborhood on Nostrand Avenue.
“I’ve heard from people who have had their head smashed against a wall when they were frisked,” said Toure, 40. “This is something my mother had to mentally prepare me for. It’s an unfortunate rite of passage.”
Public hearings on stop and frisk are expected to continue later this month, including one at the Brooklyn College student center on October 23rd.