Commentary: A Bold Mayor Blunders in Defending Stop-and-Frisk

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg continues to defend stop-and-frisk as a crime fighting tool, a move that will tarnish his legacy.

Posted: 03/25/2013 11:53 AM EDT
NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg

No one can accuse Michael Bloomberg of not doing things in a big way.

The New York City mayor recently announced a new $12 million campaign to urge elected officials in critical states to back gun control initiatives, the most prominent of those being a comprehensive background check.

That comes after Bloomberg suffered a setback on a cause he was championing when a judge struck down his plan to set limits on large sugary soft drinks, another bold initiative. The mayor vows to keep up the battle and will appeal the decision.

While we’re at it, let’s not forget Bloomberg’s role in eliminating smoking in public places and his position as chief promoter of the creation of bike lanes throughout New York City. When it comes to public policy issues, Bloomberg is convinced of his moral rectitude and is bitterly reluctant to take no for an answer. Digging his heels in represents not just a management style; it is also a definition of who he is.

Nowhere can that trait be seen with more clarity than in the mayor’s disposition regarding his administration’s horrific police initiative knows as stop-and-frisk. Bloomberg and his police commissioner, Raymond Kelly, have decided that this program – which amounts to little more than sanctioned racial profiling -- is a necessary, worthwhile policy.

Despite the fact that stop-and-frisk has been used almost exclusively as a tool to detain Black and Latino young men and that these stops rarely lead to any arrests for wrongdoing, Bloomberg persists in maintaining that this is a proper course to take. Even though statistics compiled by the New York Civil Liberties Union demonstrate that the stop-and-frisk initiative has little value whatsoever as an effective crime-fighting tool, the mayor maintains his defense of the program.

And, now, with a class action suit in federal court that seeks to invalidate this atrocious and humiliating practice, with evidence presented in court of police supervisors calling specifically for officers to stop young African-American men, the mayor persists in defending stop-and-frisk as an important tool in keeping the city safe.

It is commendable for a public official to take a stand on an issue and to use his resources and the power of his office to advance the rights and privileges of the people whom he represents. But stop-and-frisk does nothing to advance the livability of New York City. Instead, it subjects hundreds of thousands of young men of color to needless humiliation for no reason other than the fact that they are young men of color.

In his defense of stop-and-frisk, Bloomberg is ignoring the fact that the program undermines the very relationship of trust that should exist between the police department and the people its officers are sworn to protect and defend.  

As he approaches the end of his third and final term, Bloomberg clearly wants to move boldly and quickly to get a number of things done during the final months of his incumbency. And while the mayor is accustomed to doing things in a bigger-than-life manner, his stand on stop-and-frisk represents a colossal blunder that will forever tarnish his legacy.

The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.

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