Stop and Frisk Defended by New York City's Police Commissioner

Raymond Kelly said that the practice of stopping and searching residents was valuable.

Posted: 03/13/2013 12:41 PM EDT

New York City’s police commissioner offered a defense of his department’s controversial stop-and-frisk practice, saying that it was critical to maintaining law and order in America’s largest city.

Raymond W. Kelly, New York City’s top police official, spoke at a hearing of the City Council Tuesday and said that the number of people who are stopped in the city had declined and that the practice was an essential tool in the police department’s ability to fight crime.

“Let me say this: New York is by far the safest big city in America,” Kelly said to the council committee. Then, in a reference to the police department’s stop-and-frisk practices and declining murder rate, he said: “What we are doing here are tactics and strategies that are working. Something is going right here.”

That echoed the views of New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg. And it drew sharp responses from several African-American and Latino members of the City Council who have criticized the police initiative as little more than sanctioned racial profiling.

“It was disrespectful,” said Jumaane D. Williams, a Brooklyn Democrat, who has been a staunch critic of stop-and-frisk, in an interview with BET.com.

“The continued defense of this program by the commissioner and the doubling and tripling down of it by the mayor, is fanning the flames in many communities like mine,” Williams said. “It’s not only frustrating. It’s dangerous.”

At the heart of stop-and-frisk is the practice of stopping and searching people whom the police consider to be suspicious. In 2011, that led to nearly 700,000 people being stopped by police. The practice has been criticized because the vast majority of those detained are Black and Latino and that in more than 85 percent of the cases, the stops result in no discovery of wrongdoing.

Civil rights groups and elected officials have harshly criticized the policy. Last year, a federal judge said many of the stops were unconstitutional because they did not meet the requirements for searches.


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(Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

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