A recent Quinnipiac poll shows most New Yorkers support Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, but that didn’t stop City Council members this morning from blasting him over the NYPD’s counterterrorism efforts and its stop-and-frisk policy.
And while Kelly challenged stop-and-frisk critics to come up with a better way to keep guns off the streets and bring violent neighborhoods under control, Council members were unimpressed that his budget deputy couldn’t explain millions of dollars worth of counterterrorism and intelligence spending increases.
Brooklyn Councilman Brad Lander, who has been calling for the creation of an independent inspector general to oversee the NYPD, said that while the city needs a robust counterterrorism program, the department has gone too far in its surveillance of Muslims.
“Based on my read of a lot of the NYPD documents released in the AP, it looks in quite a few places like undercover surveillance of student groups and mosques took place where it’s impossible for me to see how it’s not based on profiling but instead based on real leads,” Lander said.
The department’s monitoring of Muslims, including meetings of student groups, has been scrutinized in a series of articles by the Associated Press. Some experts have questioned whether the tactics are legal.
At today’s hearing, ostensibly to review the department’s budget, Kelly defended the NYPD’s counterterrorism efforts, insisting that police carefully follow federal “Handschu” guidelines that allow officers to gather information in public places and online.
Kelly insisted undercover officers and confidential informants are used only in investigations authorized under Handschu, which bans the department from keeping records unless there is evidence of illegal activity.
“When we have attended a private event organized by a student group, we have done so only when authorized pursuant to Handschu,” Kelly said.
Yet Manhattan Council members Melissa Mark-Viverito and Robert Jackson ripped into Kelly over the monitoring of Muslims as well as the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk policy, which they said unfairly targets young black and Latino New Yorkers.
Kelly repeatedly pointed to the successful prevention of any terrorist attacks since 9/11 and a drop in crime in the city, and challenged the Council members to offer alternatives.
“What I haven’t heard is any solution to the violence problem in this community,” Kelly said. “People are upset about being stopped, yet what is the answer? What have leaders of the communities of color said?”
Lander, who also delved into the NYPD’s budget in his questions for the commissioner, came away disappointed about the lack of a clear accounting of counterterrorism dollars.
The councilman asked Kelly to explain the growth in the counterterrorism budget, which is projected to rise by $17 million in next year’s budget, a 60 percent increase, and the increase in intelligence spending, which has jumped from $45 million in 2010 to $60 million now.
“We’re cutting other essential services like patrol officers across the board,” Lander said. “So I would like to understand what the increase is buying and why it’s necessary at this point in time.”
Kelly replied that some money probably is still coming from federal grants, even though they are being cut. Edward Allocco, the NYPD’s deputy commissioner for management and budget, also said figures in the police budget are “not always accurate and reflective of current employment levels” since there isn’t enough “staff or time to keep them up to date to reflect what’s going on from year to year.”
“I don’t think that’s a fair explanation of what happened to $17 million in one case and $15 million in the other,” Lander countered.
Allocco then attributed the budget increases to staffing. “I think the personnel levels that you’re looking at are what’s driving the difference in the budgetary totals from year to year, and those are not necessarily accurate and up to date,” he said. “But what I’m saying is that those levels have remained fairly constant.”
Tags: 9/11, Associated Press, black, Brad Lander, budget, City Council, counterterrorism, Edward Allocco, guns, Handschu, Inspector General, intelligence, Latino, Melissa-Mark Viverito, Muslim, NYPD, police, Ray Kelly, Robert Jackson, stop and frisk, surveillance, terrorism
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