May 6, 2013
By Marc Bussanich
Brooklyn, NY—Public Advocate Bill de Blasio told parishioners at First Baptist Church of Crown Heights on Sunday that Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s comments last week to the NYPD regarding stop-and-frisk were astounding because the Mayor was arguing that public safety and civil liberties can’t co-exist. Mr. de Blasio also said he wouldn’t eliminate the controversial practice if elected mayor because it’s a valid policing practice. Watch Video
de Blasio came under fire from the NYPD for referencing the NYPD’s police commissioner Raymond Kelly in an ad attacking stop-and-frisk. In the video ad, Kelly says in an interview on Nightline that African Americans are being under stopped in relation to the percentage of people being described as being the perpetrators of violent crime.
“For reasons I find inexplicable Commissioner Kelly went on Nightline and tried to justify the number of stops of young African Americans as being in fact less than it might be. And he did it in a way that was insensitive, but more importantly obscured the issue. He literally said people should be content with the current state of stop-and-frisk because it could be even higher,” said de Blasio.
He said he called out Kelly because his comments showed how he’s out of touch with reality on the ground.
“Then his spokesman [Paul Browne] characterized my criticism as race baiting, which is outrageous and entirely missed the fact that there is a valid and necessary debate going on here in this city,” de Blasio said.
The stop-and-frisk tactic, under which officers stop, question and sometimes frisk people they suspect of having committed a crime, is currently the subject of a lawsuit in federal court in Manhattan filed by The Center for Constitutional Rights.
According to an analysis by the New York Civil Liberties Union, innocent New Yorkers have been subjected to police stops and street interrogations more than 4 million times since 2002, and that black and Latino communities continue to be the overwhelming target of these tactics.
The organization also notes that the NYPD’s own reports show that nearly nine out of 10 stopped-and-frisked New Yorkers have been innocent.
de Blasio also said Council Speaker Christine Quinn is being contradictory on the issue by publicly supporting the police commissioner while simultaneously calling for reforms to stop-and-frisk.
His other mayoral opponent, Comptroller John Liu, has publicly said that he would eliminate the practice if elected mayor because the low number of gun confiscations doesn’t justify the nearly 700,000 police stops last year.
Labor Press asked de Blasio how would he reform stop-and-frisk short of eliminating the practice.
“I think you can’t eliminate the basic police tactic of Stop and Frisk because it’s a valid policing tactic—pursuing a suspect description for example but doing it in a constitutional and appropriate manner. But the notion that we can fundamentally reform the approach; we can make it fair. I know we can do that. So I disagree with anyone who says abolish a tactic we need, but I agree entirely that we have to fundamentally reform it. We’re not going to do that with a police commissioner who continues to try to rationalize a broken policy,” said de Blasio.
Follow Marc Bussanich on Twitter firstname.lastname@example.org