Justice Denied: Mayor Bloomberg’s Vote Against Victims Of Racial Profiling

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Different universe: Mayor Bloomberg recently said Police arrest too many Whites and not enough ethnic minorities

[Op-Ed]

In response to Mayor Bloomberg vetoing the Community Safety Act bills to ban discriminatory profiling by the police and establish independent oversight of the NYPD, Communities United for Police Reform released the following statement.

We remain disappointed that Mayor Bloomberg refuses to engage in a constructive dialogue about ending the government-sponsored discriminatory profiling happening in our city.

People across this nation are engaged in deep discussions about the dangers of racial profiling, but Mayor Bloomberg is instead focused on waging a fight against ending it in New York City. It’s pretty simple: either you believe people should be treated differently simply because of their race, religion, sexual orientation or immigration status, or you find that repulsive and believe it should be outlawed.

New York City must outlaw racial profiling and all discriminatory profiling, and we support the City Council taking leadership on this issue to move our city forward by overriding the mayor’s misguided veto to ensure all New Yorkers’ civil rights are protected.

BACKGROUND

Communities United for Police Reform launched a petition today by music artist Talib Kweli calling for an end to racial profiling by police in NYC and support for the Council legislation to outlaw discriminatory profiling. In the petition email that went out to thousands of MoveOn.org members, Kweli pointed to the tragic killing of Trayvon Martin as an example of the “dangers of racial profiling.” It further stated that “Bloomberg just doesn’t seem to get it,” citing his opposition to the legislation to end racial profiling in New York City, “divisive and inaccurate statements” and “fearmongering.”

In 2003 as a state senator, Barack Obama voted for House Bill 2330, known as the Illinois Civil Rights Act of 2003, which went into effect in 2004.  The law is one of the models for the New York City Council’s Intro 1080 to strengthen New York City’s prohibition on bias-based profiling.  Like Intro 1080, the Illinois law provides a private right of action in State Courts for those who experience discrimination by government agencies – including police departments – and allows individuals to bring “disparate impact” lawsuits.  The Illinois law also allows judges to award legal fees (allowed under NYCC Intro 1080); and it goes even further to allow monetary damages (which are not allowed in the NYCC Intro 1080).

The Illinois Civil Rights Act of 2003 has been in effect for a decade.  It is much broader than Intro 1080, since it covers the entire State of Illinois (including, but not only Chicago), and every unit of government (including, but not only, police departments).  There have been approximately 50 lawsuits annually.  Of the 26 federal cases or state cases that reached the appellate level, 18 were dismissed for failing to bring a proper claim. Of the two disparate impact class action lawsuits, one was dismissed and one was settled. Kansas and Rhode Island have similar laws (more narrowly focused on law enforcement, like the NYC bill).

In the aftermath of the Trayvon Martin verdict, people throughout the nation have engaged in a substantive dialogue about racial profiling. Many people of color in New York City and around the United States have given eloquent testimony of the harms and dangers of racial and bias-based profiling. Meanwhile, Mayor Bloomberg has fought against a ban on discriminatory profiling in New York City by making destructive and deceptive statements, fearmongering, and threatening to use his wealth.

On Friday, the six prime co-sponsors of Intros 1079 & 1080, known together as the Community Safety Act, (Council members Jumaane Williams, Brad Lander, Fernando Cabrera, Robert Jackson, Melissa Mark-Viverito, and Rosie Mendez) sent a letter to Mayor Bloomberg, asking him to listen to testimony from New Yorkers affected by racial profiling before he decides whether to sign or veto the bills.  They wrote:

“Too often in debates like these, policymakers from some of the city’s wealthier and safer neighborhoods decide what is best for low-income communities and communities of color without actually listening to the members of those communities … When we listen to members of the public in open discourse on contentious issues like these, our city and our democracy are better served.”

The Bloomberg administration refused to hear testimony from New Yorkers affected by racial profiling

 

 

Priscilla Gonzalez is spokesperson, Communities United for Police Reform.

 

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