Black Candidate for Mayor in NY Would Keep Some of Stop and Frisk

William C. Thompson, who is seeking the Democratic nomination for mayor, says he would keep intact much of the controversial police initiative.

Posted: 05/30/2013 01:48 PM EDT

An African-American candidate for mayor of New York City said he would maintain portions of the city’s controversial stop and frisk program, in which hundreds of thousands of young people of color are detained by the police each year.

However, William C. Thompson Jr., a former comptroller of New York City, said that it has been a program that has been "misused and abused" and that he remains critical of several aspects of how it has been applied. Thompson is one of several candidates vying for the Democratic nomination for mayor.

“I believe that, when used correctly, it can be a useful police tool,” Thompson said, in an interview with BET.com. “But it has been misused and abused by the Bloomberg administration and it has resulted in hundreds of thousands of Black and Latino people being stopped inappropriately.”

But in endorsing aspects of the program, Thompson has taken a position that is decidedly at odds with many of the city’s African-American elected officials as well as a number of civil rights groups, who have called for the program to be abandoned altogether. They have long criticized stop and frisk as little more than sanctioned racial profiling.

The program has been championed by Michael R. Bloomberg, New York’s mayor. Bloomberg and his police commissioner, Raymond W. Kelly, maintain that it is a highly successful program that helps to cut crime, particularly in the city’s African-American and Latino neighborhoods.

Thompson's position on stop and frisk was the talk of political New York on Thursday, when his support for some aspects of the program was widely covered in the media.

"But I have been consistent about my position for some time," Thompson said. "I have not changed it. It is a program that hasn'tbeen implemented well. And I have said that I wouldn't keep Ray Kelly as commissioner if I were elected."

On Wednesday, Thompson received the endorsement of a number of labor unions that represent roughly 100,000 law enforcement officials in New York City.

Thompson’s position is not significantly different from most of his rivals in the mayoral race. But one candidate, John C. Liu, who succeeded Thompson as comptroller, has called for the stop and frisk program to be abandoned.

Stop and frisk has been a signature issue that has been opposed by a number of officials and organizations in New York. It has also been the centerpiece of a class action suit in federal court by a group of plaintiffs who contend that they were detained by police because of their race. A decision is expected within the next few months.

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 (Photo: Bryan Bedder/Getty Images)

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