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City Council Will File a “Motion to Discharge” to Vote on Historic NYPD Bills Tomorrow

They’re two bills birthed from latest NYPD controversy. One would establish an inspector general to oversee the department, and another would allow citizens to sue the police over claims of racial profiling. The two parts of the overarching Community Safety Act have divided the city’s most powerful, setting up a policy showdown for the upcoming mayoral race. And today, the bills will begin their gestural journey through the City Council as Speaker Christine Quinn gears up for an unprecedented legislative maneuver on her floor.

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At some point this afternoon, Councilmen Brad Lander and Jumaane Williams–the co-sponsors of the bills–will attempt the “motion to discharge” process. It’s usually done to guarantee swift passage of a bill through a bypass of committee approval. In this case, the bills have been stalled by the Public Safety committee; the committee chair, former Speaker Peter Vallone Jr., has refused to schedule a vote on the pending legislations due to personal opposition to the bills.

Here’s how it works:

After the council convenes tomorrow for a full meeting, Lander and Williams will formally introduce the final versions of the bills to the floor. Then they’ll file a motion to discharge tomorrow. Next meeting, the Council will vote on the motion, or whether or not it’s OK that the bills are bypassing Vallone’s committee. Should they approve, a half of the Community Safety Act will come to a full vote at the meeting after that. If the answer’s no, then the bills find themselves back in the committee stages.

As Speaker, Quinn has to sign off on the bills that will be introduced to the floor. Per usual, this has meant that bills only she supports have seen the light of day, giving her a significant amount of authority over what comes out of the legislature. But this time, things are a bit different: Quinn is against the racial profiling bill but supports the IG bill; two bills which, according to supporters, must come out together.

With that being said, Lander and Williams’s motion to discharge will be the first ever under Quinn’s watch. It’s been used as a threat several times but, for two bills that could drastically change New York City law enforcement, time is of the essence.

The Voice will keep you updated on the vote’s procedure.

Send your story tips to jsurico15@gmail.com. Follow his tweets here.

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The Use of Stop-and-Frisk and Crime Rates Continue to Drop

It’s already been quite a strange year for stop-and-frisk.

In the first days of 2013, the NYPD’s Clean Halls program, which allowed officers to search anyone suspicious in tenanted buildings, was ruled unconstitutional in a Manhattan court. Then, a few weeks later, court proceedings began for Floyd v. New York, a case that seeks to end the practice altogether. And we learned how to stop and frisk on our own (if we ever wanted to do that).

While legal threats and criticisms on the practice culminate, a statistic came out yesterday that adds yet another peculiar layer to the agency’s most notorious controversy. Between January 1 and March 31, an estimated 99,788 stop-and-frisks were conducted. (The NYPD has conducted 5 million stop-and-frisks so far.) Compared to this time last year, it is a 51 percent decrease–the first few months of 2012 saw 203,500 stops.

The number marks a strange pattern for the practice: As acrimony toward stop-and-frisk continue to boil, the actual use of the program is declining at a rapid pace.

The reasons for the drop still seem a bit unclear. A result of strained budgets and Bloomberg’s preferred policy has left fewer cops on the streets, even as overall crime rates have dropped. So the equation here is pure consequence: fewer cops, fewer stop-and-frisks. This was the explanation given to the Wall Street Journal by an NYPD spokesperson.

But public opinion has its dominance, and stop-and-frisk’s unbalanced racial targeting has made headlines. If the cops are playing PR, the decrease could be seen as a reaction to citizen backlash more than a staffing drop.

However, another statistic came out yesterday that also throws a wrench in Commissioner Ray Kelly’s theory that stop-and-frisks lower crime by taking guns off the street. In the same January-March time period, crime fell 2.7 percent, with murder decreasing by about 30 percent from last year. This time around, the NYPD’s proclamation of “more stop-and-frisks, less crime” has been proven invalid.

The outcome of Floyd v. New York remains to be seen. Regardless of that case’s outcome, the streets of New York City have been a bit safer so far this year and that, of course, is the real good news.

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Facebook And The Law: NYPD Deputy Inspector Targeted On The Social Network

In a week filled with headlines of a fired LAPD cop gone on a killing spree after posting a murderous ‘manifesto’ on Facebook, this story should unsettle you.

Yesterday, the New York Post reported that NYPD deputy inspector Joseph Gulotta was virtually targeted on the social network when an anonymous user posted intimate details on the specific Precinct’s page about said inspector and ordered a “hit” on him. The details included the police officer’s schedule (down to the exact hours) and car model. Almost immediately, the D.I. filed a complaint against the harrowing message and it has since been removed.

Mr. Gulotta is in charge of Brooklyn’s 73rd District – home to Brownsville, East New York and other neighborhoods with particularly high levels of violence. His unit is known for its knack to monitor Facebook for suspected criminals – kinda like the one we’re dealing with here – and its most recent social media gang bust landed 49 members. As of now, the NYPD believe the user may belong to a gang prevalent in the area known as OccFam.

But whoever it may be, the lesson here is simple: Facebook can be a real dark place for criminals and police… if it wants to be.

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FYI: Don’t Steal An iPhone From An Undercover Cop

We’ve reported on iPhone thefts too many times: a few weeks back, we covered the runaway smartphone fugitive who thwarted his captors in a subway turnstile, which rides off the coattail of a Daily News¬†report that these thefts have risen 44% in the past year. Another week, another blog post with a warning to keep an eye on your digital device. But this one has to take the cake for the dumbest iPhone theft we’ve come across yet.

Recently, the NYPD has been conducting what it calls its “anti-Apple-picking” campaign, or Operation ID, in which iPhones and other electronic devices are registered by serial numbers into a database so the cops can track your phone if it’s stolen (we’ll leave the Big Brother references at home, for now). It’s the cops’ way of celebrating the release of the iPhone 5: citizens wait in lines while the cops pick those lines for security.

So yesterday, the cops were conducting a sting for this campaign at the southbound 6 train on Lexington Avenue and 51st Street. It was around 3:40pm and the 6 train, per usual, was crammed with tons of people when the cops entered. It was at this time that some jackass reached his hand into an undercover cop’s backpack and snatched his iPhone.

Soon after, the suspect, Khomali Vinson, ran for his life out of the train when it reached Grand Central. Except the cops were waiting for him as if they almost knew this was going to happen. Vinson will be charged with grand larceny and the criminal possession of stolen property.

What we have here is a classic example of irony (ugh).¬†An undercover cop had his iPhone stolen during a campaign that seeks to prevent iPhones from being stolen. If this is an indication for anything, it’s that the problem will persist, no matter what the authorities will do.

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Another Knife-Wielding Foe Taken Down by NYPD in Queens

As if the Times Square encounter with that nutjob and his knife in broad daylight wasn’t already imprinted in our short-term memory.

In Queens, police received a tip at around 5pm that a 27-year-old man was holding a knife to his own neck. Once they arrived on the scene, the tip came true as the NYPD surrounded the man. After numerous calls for the man to put the knife down, he began to walk towards the cop with the knife waving high in the air.
One of the NYPD officers shot the approaching target in the shoulder, a presumably non-life-threatening shot. However, when the 27-year-old was taken to nearby Jamaica Hospital, he was pronounced dead at around 7:30pm.
Unfortunately, it turns out that yesterday was an overall bloody day for the NYPD: this fatal incident rides off the coat tail of another shooting in which the police were responsible.
In the Bronx, NYPD arrived at a suspected bodega robbery-in-process. Reynaldo Cuevas, one of the young employees there, was able to escape the bad guys inside. But, once he ran from the scene, a police officer “accidentally discharged” at Cuevas, leaving the teenager dead when he arrived at a nearby hospital. Commissioner Ray Kelly confirmed the shooting as “accidental” on the part of the police officer.
So one knife-wielding man killed in Queens and one innocent teenage boy shot in the Bronx. And all in a day’s work.
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RFK’s Son Pissed over Dad’s Suit of Death Getting Vegas Treatment

If you die, and you die famously, guess what? That awful Gap cardigan you were wearing is going to be a stah. Such was the case when the suit Robert F. Kennedy’s wore the night he died went on display at a California homicide detectives convention at the Palms Resort & Casino in Vegas, along with OJ’s glove and a Manson Family rope. Due to a very public outcry, the suit was removed, but Kennedy’s son Max is still pissed, and took to the pages of the LA Times to explain his side of the situation.

When I called to express my surprise and disappointment, the chief maintained to me that hanging my dad’s bloody shirt from a mannequin in a casino was part of an effort to train detectives.

Yeah, Max Kennedy, chill. This is all about learning. Nevermind that the California’s homicide detectives obviously needed to have their convention outside of California, and place a historical piece of evidence Max Kennedy requested back ten years ago on morbid display for cops to gawk at. Or that they did it at the same place The Real World: Vegas made the public contraction of sexually transmitted diseases a thing. Or that they might be better off using something more recent, like say, Maurice L. Cox Jr.’s cigarette lighter, Jose Torres’ microphone stand, Darrick Collins’ waistband, or maybe one of the multiple SWAT vests Jose Raul Pena saw before his daughter became the first hostage killed by an LA SWAT team in the history of the division (or even better, the pens used in the failed campaign to reverse the coroner’s verdict on it). And then putting a team of Cirque du Soleil dancers behind them.