New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg spoke before an all-Black congregation in Brooklyn this Sunday about the race-based criticism lodged at the New York Police Department’s controversial stop-and-frisk policy, defending the policy that has led to disproportionate arrests of Blacks and Latinos.
“We are not going to walk away from a strategy that we know saves lives,” Bloomberg said at First Baptist Full Gospel Church of Brownsville, according to the New York Times. “At the same time, we owe it to New Yorkers to ensure that stops are properly conducted and carried out in a respectful way.”
The bold talk comes on the heels of increased pressure from lawmakers and activists to end the policy and marks the first time Bloomberg has dedicated an entire speech to the issue. Although Bloomberg acknowledged the disproportionate effect the policy has on New York’s minority communities, he maintained that racial profiling is not “tolerated” by the city and said the policy is simply about stopping violence before it starts.
"By making it [guns] 'too hot to carry,' the NYPD is preventing guns from being carried on our streets," he said. "That is our real goal — preventing violence before it occurs, not responding to the victims after the fact."
However, critics say while the stop-and-frisk policy is good for stoking community fears of police, it does not, in fact, help to reduce crime. In 2011, the NYPD conducted more than 600,000 stops, and this year, the department is on pace to conduct 800,000. Out of all recorded stops last year, 87 percent were Black or Latino, and 88 percent of persons stopped were not arrested for any crime as a result of the search.
"Bloomberg's massive street-level racial profiling program is a civil and human rights catastrophe that both hurts our children and makes our communities less safe," NAACP President and CEO Benjamin Todd Jealous said in response to Bloomberg’s speech. "Most of the victims of this form of police abuse are young. Many are forever changed by being assaulted and degraded by the very people who have sworn to protect and serve them."
Last month, a federal judge ruled that a lawsuit challenging the policy on grounds of racial profiling may move forward with class-action status — opening the door for numerous others to join the lawsuit.
Former NYPD detective and head of the Black Law Enforcement Alliance Marquez Claxton says that the racial issues inherent in the policy cannot be overlooked.
"There's a definite racial component to these stops," Claxton said, speaking on the talk show Melissa Harris-Perry. "Why are innocent black and Latino families — mothers, fathers, our elders and seniors — being stopped at the same rate as our young folk now in many neighborhoods?"
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(Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images)