Stop and Frisk
We have often discussed the tragedy of Mayor Bloomberg's obsession with using skin color as the key determinant of whether a resident should be treated as a criminal or not. The Mayor has been unwilling to consider any non-racist alternatives to his approach, and his police commissioner has even suggested that the racist stop and frisk policies persist because no alternatives have been proposed by the opponents of the practice.
The judge supporting a law suit against NYC for the stop-and-frisk abuses helped lay out the problems with the practice, and the New York Times stated how unhelpful and racist the Mayor's approach is.
"As Judge Scheindlin notes in her opinion, a report by the legal scholar Jeffrey Fagan found that blacks and Latinos were more likely to be stopped at police discretion, not just in high-crime, high-minority areas, but in districts where crime is minimal and populations are mixed.
Police officials say that officers stop people when they have reasonable suspicion of criminal activity. An analysis last year by The Times of street stops in one mainly black Brooklyn neighborhood found that officers listed vague reasons in half the stops, including “furtive movement,” a category that can be used to mask harassment.
The Fagan report found that arrests are made in less than 6 percent of all street stops — a lower rate than if the police simply set up random checkpoints. Less than 1 percent of stops turned up weapons. This suggests that hundreds of thousands of people, mostly minorities, have been stopped for no legitimate reason — or worse, because of the color of their skin."
Last Week's Hearing
The New York City Council held a hearing on four proposals to fix the stop-and-frisk abuses, but the NYPD, the entity which executed the stop-and-frisk activities, chose not to send a representative to the hearing. In fact, the only defender of the racist stop-and-frisk policies that the Mayor has made the centerpiece of his policing strategy was Counsel to the Mayor Michael Best. Best admitted that he knew virtually nothing about NYPD practices, abuses, or any of the controversies that resulted in the hearing. He repeatedly stated that any new laws related to the Mayor's stop-and-frisk policies would be "legally infirm," suggesting that the Council did not have the power to restrict the Mayor's ability to conduct law enforcement activities in a racist manner. Defenders of the Mayor and opponents of stop-and-frisk agreed that Michael Best provided no sound argument for his assertion that the NYC Council could not take action to reduce the abuses brought about by stop-and-frisk.
"Councilmember Brand Lander called Best's arguments 'absurd,' noting that taking this view, every single new law we passed would be considered 'curtailing.' Speaker Christine Quinn asked Best who signed a law prohibiting racial profiling. 'Bloomberg! That's my point!' Quinn said. 'How could you say that we don't have the authority?'
Even the chairman of the Public Safety Committee, Peter Vallone Jr., who opened the hearing with a strident opposition to the bill that would loosen the current definition of racial profiling, said he was confused by Best's argument that creating Inspector General for the NYPD would infringe on the mayor's power. Best repeated that having guidelines for hiring the IG, as the bill does, would curtail the mayor's authority. 'You didn't give me a lot of reasons there,' Vallone said, shaking his head. 'But okay.' "
The New York Times described the four proposals:
- Require police officers, when conducting stops, to identify themselves, provide their name and rank, and explain the reason for the stop.
- Seek to add teeth to an existing ban on racial profiling
- Require that officers inform individuals of their right to refuse a search and obtain proof of their consent, if granted, in cases in which there is no other legal basis to search an individual.
- Create an office of the Inspector General, which would oversee the NYPD.