(Reuters) - New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg will oppose planned legislation to create independent oversight of the New York Police Department, a measure introduced by city lawmakers as the NYPD comes under growing criticism for controversial policies.
Two members of the City Council introduced legislation on Wednesday that would create the position of inspector general, an independent auditor with subpoena power and broad investigative authority to monitor the 35,000-member NYPD. The measure has found support among civil libertarians.
“If you can have an inspector general at the FBI and the CIA, why can’t you have an inspector general at the NYPD?” said Councilman Jumaane Williams, a co-sponsor of the proposed bill.
Like his predecessor Rudy Giuliani, Bloomberg has resisted calls for independent oversight of the police department.
The NYPD “is the most regulated department in the entire city,” Bloomberg said on Wednesday. “I think we’ve got enough supervision and oversight. We’ve got to focus on just getting the bad guys off the street and getting the guns out of their hands.”
Even with crime rates falling, the police department has come under fire in the past year for increased use of its stop and frisk program, which whistleblower cops and police union officials say is driven by an illegal quota system.
NYPD surveillance of Muslim communities in and outside of New York has also been condemned by critics, who say it constitutes racial profiling.
The legislation’s sponsors would need a two-thirds majority - or 35 of the 51 members - to override a mayoral veto.
Currently, about a dozen council members have expressed support for the bill, according to Williams, who said he believed “that probably within weeks we should be close to or at a veto-proof majority.”
Critical support for the measure from Christine Quinn, the powerful City Council speaker and likely 2013 mayoral candidate, remains uncertain. She declined to comment Wednesday on the legislation, which she said she hasn’t yet reviewed.
“That said, a lot of this bill comes out of the stop and frisk debate,” Quinn said. “I think I’ve been very clear that the number of stop and frisks is simply too much... we have to have even more reform of the stop, question and frisk program.”
NYPD spokesman Paul Browne called the measure redundant, noting that the department was already overseen by two U.S. attorneys, five district attorneys, a Civilian Complaint Review Board, and the NYPD’s 750-member Internal Affairs division.
“The NYPD’s Internal Affairs department is bigger than most police departments,” Browne said.
Some city council members and the New York Civil Liberties Union say an inspector general is necessary to review department-wide policies, programs and operations.
Under the proposed legislation, an inspector general would be appointed by the mayor to a seven-year term, which could be renewed once.
Reporting By Chris Francescani; Editing by Eric Walsh