For more than a year, there has been a groundswell of criticism of the New York Police Department’s shameful program called stop and frisk. The New York Civil Liberties Union has lodged its strong opposition to it as well as the NAACP, nationally and locally. There have been protests against the policing technique that have included people in labor unions, student organizations, predominantly Black fraternities and all manner of New Yorkers.
One name that is decidedly not on that list is Michael R. Bloomberg, the mayor of New York City.
In fact, Bloomberg this week equated the role of civil rights groups fighting stop and frisk with, as he put it, gun lobby extremists.
“In New York City, some don’t have the courage to stand up to special interests on the left and support common sense policing tactics like stop and frisk,” Bloomberg said. “We don’t need extremists on the left or the right running our police department, whether it’s the NRA or the NYCLU.”
More specifically, Bloomberg voiced his strong disapproval of a bill that would ease the path for stop-and-frisk victims to sue the police. He also indicated his vehement displeasure for another bill that would call for the appointment of an inspector general to oversee the police department’s counter-terrorism activities and to penalize police officers for racial profiling.
The mayor’s position is wholly misguided. The aim should not be to reduce the ability of New Yorkers to sue the city for acts of police misconduct. The goal should be to find ways to curb acts of police misconduct.
The recent trial in United States District Court has been a place where the ills of stop and frisk are placed prominently on display and serve as a vivid example of a police department gone woefully astray. The trial made clear that the department has been specifically targeting African-American and Latino young men, stopping them for nothing more than being young and non-white.
So what can be done about this mayoral impasse? Since it’s clear that Bloomberg will not change his position, pressure must be applied to the wide range of candidates who are seeking his job in this year’s mayoral election. The candidates, both Democratic and Republican, must be asked to state their views on the topic with great clarity.
Stop and frisk is a blemish on a society that credits itself as being progressive. It takes young men of color and subjects them to the most humiliating and dehumanizing of treatment, simply because of the color of their skin. As the 2013 mayoral election approaches, the city has an opportunity to do away with the Bloomberg model of policing. It won’t be soon enough.
The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.
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