Mayor Bloomberg Defends Stop-and-Frisk
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Mayor Bloomberg came out today in strong opposition of a set of measures designed to curb stop-and-frisk, and add oversight to the police department, telling those who support the proposed legislation to “stop playing politics with public safety.”
Last week City Council Speaker Christine Quinn said she would allow a vote on a bill that allows New Yorkers to file lawsuits in state courts alleging racial profiling by cops. Quinn, who is also a mayoral candidate, opposes the bill.
Speaking to a group of NYPD police officers at a press conference April 30, Bloomberg said: “Make no mistake: This is a dangerous piece of legislation and anyone who supports it is courting disaster.”
Bloomberg said the legislation is based on false allegations that the NYPD disproportionately stops men of color.
“The sad reality is on the streets of our city 90 of murder suspects and 90 percent of murder victims on our streets are blacks and latino,” Bloomberg said, adding that the percentage of blacks and latinos stopped is less than 90 percent.
A city committee report issued Oct. 10, 2012, stated that in 2011, 87 percent of those stopped were black and latino.
“If the NYPD conducted stops and intelligence gathering based on demographics rather than real leads, guns would be everywhere in our city and terrorists may well have succeeded,” the mayor added.
In defense of the practice, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly cited the city’s low crime rates compared to other major U.S. cities and the national average. The NYC gun fatality rate is half of the federal rate, and New York City is the safest city in the U.S., he said on Tuesday.
Characterizing NYPD law enforcement officers first-preventers, rather than first-responders, Bloomberg said the police are required by law to stop people based only on a suspect description or based on suspicious activity.
He suggested that the new law would prohibit police from sharing racially-identifying information about suspects, and this would make finding suspects much more difficult. “Stops are a vital reason that fewer murders occur on our streets,” Bloomberg said.
The legislation also opens up a legal avenue for those who believe they have been discriminated against to pursue justice, an avenue the mayor proposed could prompt some police officers to avoid doing their jobs in order to avoid the threat of a lawsuit.
The Community Safety Act, which is comprised of four separate measures, three of which are related to stop-and-frisk, was introduced by counsel member Jumaane Williams (D-Brooklyn) to the City Counsel’s Committee for Public Safety. Thirty-two co-sponsors support the legislation, not quite enough to override a mayoral veto.
Steve Kohut, organizer with the Justice Committee, a resident of the Lower East Side of Manhattan, and a Latino, testifying before the Council’s Committee on Public Safety, said he has been victimized by the NYPD more times than he can remember.
“I have had my head slammed against a car, I’ve been choked, I’ve had property taken out of my pockets and not returned, I’ve had my property intentionally broken without reimbursement, I’ve even had my life threatened by the NYPD,” he said.
Numerous stories similar to Kohut have been raised by New Yorkers.
Intro. 801 of the Act would address the concerns of people who are stopped, but are not aware of their legal rights, and not aware that officers are required to obtain consent in most cases before proceeding, stated Djibril Toure, a member of the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement and Communities United for Police Reform.
It would require the NYPD police officer to give their name and rank when stopping someone. The officer would have to give the specific reason for the stop, and a business card.
Often, when people are stopped, they are not aware of their legal rights, and not aware that officers are required to obtain consent in most cases before proceeding, stated Djibril Toure, a member of the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement and Communities United for Police Reform.
“The NYPD needs wholesale reform over the way it does business with respect to some New Yorkers’ basic civil rights,” said New York Civil Liberties Union Executive Director Donna Lieberman in a statement.
In a case that is being closely watched by both advocates and those in opposition of stop-and-frisk, a New York District Court judge is currently hearing evidence related to allegations by four plaintiffs that they were unlawfully searched on the basis of race during stop-and-frisk. Floyd et al. v. City of New York is projected to end on May 15.
In addition to stop-and-frisk concerns, Bloomberg also highlighted his concerns about legislation that proposes to establish an office of the inspector general to provide independent oversight of the NYPD.
His concern is that it would create a “rival power” and result in confusion over command and accountability at the NYPD.
“With confusion, comes deadly consequences to our police officers,” Bloomberg said.
Further, the effectiveness of terrorism control could be impacted, Bloomberg said. The mayor’s belief is that law enforcement agencies that collaborate with the NYPD on terrorism control may be less willing to share information if they were concerned it could be released outside the NYPD and to the city council.
“Mayor Bloomberg did not offer New Yorkers a speech on public safety today,” said Williams. “Instead, he gave us a glimpse into a room full of senior NYPD brass, entrenched in his skewed reality of policing and unreflective of the communities most affected by his policies.”