(The Root) — Though the New York City Police Department has steadfastly denied that its controversial stop-and-frisk program constitutes racial profiling, today it appears that New York’s finest are singing a new tune. The NYPD Captains Endowment Association is running an ad against a new City Council measure that would expand the language defining those protected from profiling.
Council members sponsoring the bill, among them Brad Lander and Jumaane Williams of Brooklyn’s Flatbush neighborhood, insist that the bill will help prevent profiling of groups such as the homeless and members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. The proposed bill reads in part:
1. “[Racial or ethnic] Bias-based profiling” means an act of a member of the force of the police department or other law enforcement officer that relies on actual or perceived race, [ethnicity, religion or] national origin color, creed, age, alienage or citizenship status, gender, sexual orientation, disability, or housing status as the determinative factor in initiating law enforcement action against an individual, rather than an individual’s behavior or other information or circumstances that links a person or persons [of a particular race, ethnicity, religion national origin] to suspected unlawful activity.
2. b. Prohibition. Every member of the police department or other law enforcement officer shall be prohibited from [racial or ethnic] engaging in bias-based profiling or unlawful discriminatory practices as defined in paragraph 3 of subdivision c of this section.
The law also formalizes a pathway of opportunity for victims of profiling to sue, something that has rankled critics of the measure. Opponents of the bill within the NYPD claim that the measure will open up the NYPD to lawsuits for simply describing the race or other physical attributes of a criminal suspect, something that supporters of the bill deny. Some have gone so far as to say the bill will prevent officers from describing more than a suspect’s wardrobe if they want to avoid lawsuits.
The dramatic new ad depicts a police officer standing blindfolded, alleging that this is what the life and job of a police officer will be like if the new measure becomes law.
According to the New York Post, Pat Lynch, president of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, which represents police officers, called the proposal “unnecessary” and disputed the notion that the biased policing was a serious problem, saying, “Racial profiling is already illegal — and should be.”
But this raises the obvious question. If all officers feel that way, then why do they fear a measure that will simply enshrine this into law?