NEW YORK—New York’s police commissioner Raymond Kelly said he understands the sensitivity for minority communities of the controversial stop-and-frisk police practice, but doesn’t support changing it.
“Violence is happening disproportionally in minority communities,” said Kelly on a Sunday morning news program Aug. 18.
During a very brief interview with Meet the Press host David Gregory, Kelly said that people being subjected to stop-and-frisk are minorities.
He added, “Look at the universe of people who are identified by the victims of violent crime, and in New York that comports to the racial makeup” of those subjected to stop-and-frisk.
Kelly defended the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk practice as not only a reasonable way to fight crime, but necessary.
Kelly supports Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s appeal of a federal judge’s decision last week that the practice is unconstitutional, and amounts to racial profiling, and should be reformed. The judge appointed a federal monitor to oversee reforms.
He added that he doesn’t agree with the judge’s logic that stop-and-frisk is discriminatory and unconstitutional.
Kelly said the number of murders in the city has gone down by 7,363 in the past 11-year period, and that “violent crime will go up” if stop-and-frisk is abated under last week’s ruling.
“This case has to be appealed in our judgment because it will be taken as a template” for the rest of the country, said Kelly.
Ben Jealous, president and CEO of the NAACP, who was also on Meet the Press, argued with Kelly’s position on principle.
“Just because there are more murders in our community does not mean that you can treat all of them like criminals,” said Jealous. “This is not about race, it’s about freedom.”
He also argued with the Kelly’s correlation between a rise in people stopped and frisked, and a reduction in violent crime.
“The problem is that the fall in homicides happened prior to 2002, and stop-and-frisk started after 2002,” said Jealous. The NYPD’s argument crediting the policy with a fall in crime has also been widely challenged by the City Council.
Jealous also said a policy that is perceived as racist by the very community it’s supposed to be protecting is fundamentally inefficient, as innocent people who need help from the police instead learn to fear them.
Other guests on the program included Sybrina Fulton, mother of Trayvon Martin, whose murder by neighborhood watch officer George Zimmerman ignited a national debate on racial profiling. Fulton has become an advocate for the reform of stand your ground laws in 21 states. Stand your ground, which allows self-defense as a legal defense for murder, won Zimmerman’s acquittal.
A New York City Council vote on Aug. 22 will determine reforms to stop-and-frisk at the city level.
The city measures include the creation of an Inspector General for the police department, and the right for victims to sue if they feel they have been racially profiled.
The measures were passed by the city council, but then vetoed by Bloomberg. The Aug. 22 vote aims to override the mayoral veto.
Supporters of the city’s measures have said it is still needed, despite the federal judge’s ruling.