By Joseph Ax
NEW YORK (Reuters) - New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg sued the City Council on Tuesday in a bid to overturn a law aimed at curbing the police department's use of its controversial stop-and-frisk policy.
The council passed the measure 10 days ago, along with another bill creating an independent watchdog to monitor the New York Police Department, overriding the mayor's veto despite his warnings that the legislation would threaten public safety.
The council's votes came less than two weeks after a federal judge ruled that the department's stop-and-frisk policy, under which officers stop people in high-crime areas they suspect of engaging in criminal activity, is unconstitutional because it targets minorities disproportionately.
The bill that prompted Bloomberg's lawsuit expanded the definition of racial profiling and gives New Yorkers who believe they were targeted the right to sue police in state court.
The lawsuit, filed in state Supreme Court in Manhattan, asserted that the bill was invalid because it is superseded by the state's criminal procedure law, or CPL, which governs the standards and procedures that police officers must follow.
"The CPL preempts the field of criminal procedure legislation and prevents local legislatures, including the council, from passing local laws in this area," the lawsuit said.
The two bills passed by the City Council and the federal court ruling amounted to a sharp defeat for Bloomberg, who has defended stop-and-frisk as vital to the city's dramatic reduction in crime during the past two decades. He is set to leave office at the end of the year at the close of his third term as mayor.
City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, one of the leading Democratic mayoral candidates, voted against the racial profiling bill, though she voted for the bill that created an outside inspector general for the NYPD with subpoena power.
On Tuesday, however, she defended the City Council's right to legislate changes to the stop-and-frisk policy.
"Mayor Bloomberg can sue all he wants, but at the end of the day, we will successfully beat back this ill-advised litigation and ensure the prerogative of the city council to reform stop & frisk," she said in an emailed statement.
Michael Cardozo, the city's top lawyer, said in a statement that the lawsuit was necessary to ensure the council did not overstep its authority.
"Local legislative bodies should not be passing laws affecting the regulation of law enforcement activity in this way," he said. "This is a matter governed by the state legislature."
The council originally passed the laws in June with a barely veto-proof majority, and Bloomberg vetoed them in July, challenging the council to override him.
The city has also appealed the federal ruling on stop-and-frisk from U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin, who called the strategy "indirect racial profiling" and appointed a monitor to oversee reforms to the street stops. The monitor, former chief city attorney Peter Zimroth, will work separately from the NYPD inspector general.
(Reporting by Joseph Ax; Editing by Leslie Adler)