By Nayaba Arinde
Special to the NNPA from the New York Amsterdam News
An “own goal,” an “unforced error” and a “foot-in-mouth gaffe” are some of the terms being used to describe Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s controversial remark about stop-and-frisk uttered on his radio show last Friday. He told his audience that he believed, “We disproportionately stop whites too much and minorities too little.”
With 685,724 people stopped in 2011 and 533,042 last year—90 percent of whom were Black or Latino, and with only a 10 percent arrest rate—Bloomberg determined that it is the 9 percent of stopped whites who are being targeted, while the number of people of color who are stopped should be higher.
“His remarks are ignorant and arrogant Bull Conner-type of racism,” said City Councilman Charles Barron. “Studies show that more whites are caught with guns than Blacks. Too bad we don’t have an impeachment process, because he needs to go immediately.”
Jubilant over the City Council’s passing of the Community Safety Act (two bills: Intro 1079, the NYPD Oversight Act, and Intro 1080, the End NYPD Discriminatory Profiling Bill) in the wee hours of Thursday morning, Council Member Jumaane D.Williams had words for Bloomberg’s acerbic comments.
“The mayor has perfectly exemplified the administration’s confusion between a constitutional stop—which we want to see practiced and which the Community Safety Act protects—and blatant profiling,” said Williams. “New Yorkers will all be safer when City Hall focuses its policies on good and lawful police work, and with a reduction in illegal stops, we can drive resources toward needed public safety enhancements like hiring more cops to put on our streets.”
To the affront and outrage of many a New Yorker, and in the wake of ongoing protests, a federal suit and a City Council-approved Community Safety Act, Bloomberg decided to add his incendiary comment to the conversation.
Complaining that some media outlets have criticized the figures, Bloomberg maintains that the number of people subjected to stop-and-frisk is justified because “it’s not a disproportionate percentage of those who witnesses and victims describe as committing the murders … In that case, I think, we disproportionately stop whites too much and minorities too little.”
As if to make his point stick, Bloomberg added, “It’s exactly the reverse of what they’re saying. I don’t know where they went to school, but they certainly didn’t take a math course or a logic course.”
Williams retorted, “I think he’s taken a course in how to misuse numbers most effectively. It’s obviously just ridiculous.”
Ironic laughter could be heard across the city in response to Bloomberg’s remark, “Nobody racially profiles.” Police numbers themselves state that almost 90 percent of all their stops are of Blacks and Latinos. Meanwhile, only 9 percent of whites were subjected to the stops, and only 7 percent were identified as murder suspects.
Critics state that contrary to what Bloomberg is saying in his own defense, there is no way that cops have stopped over 500,000 people annually under the premise that they really believe that they are all murder suspects. The NYPD’s own figures state that only 10 percent of these stops have resulted in arrests.
In response to the almost universal grassroots reaction, Bloomberg said that those with a vested interest are merely “fabricating outrage over an absolutely accurate comment.” The under-siege mayor proclaimed, “What they should be outraged by is the number of minorities who are being killed and that successful police efforts that have saved minority lives are being hampered.”
City figures report that murders are down and have dropped 35.7 percent since Bloomberg took office in 2002; the mayor and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly determine that it is due to their use of stop-and-frisk.
“When it comes to policing, the police have to be able to go out and stop [and] look for those who fit the description of a witness or a victim after a crime,” said Bloomberg. “And if you can’t do that, then, you know, you just turn over the streets to the criminals literally overnight.”
“His comment was asinine,” said Barron. “But it speaks to his attitude toward people in this city and his dismissive opinion of the legitimate discussion and protest surrounding stop-and-frisk.”
Nonetheless, the NYPD’s 5 million-plus stops since 2002 have led to three federal class action lawsuits.
After weeks of testimony, observers and participants in the federal court case Floyd vs. the City of New York and the NYPD are anxiously awaiting the conclusion in a case where the federal government has pretty much said that it would help oversee any independent monitor appointed to watch over the Police Department. In a statement to the AmNews, Bloomberg said, “Numbers show that the stops are generally proportionate with suspects’ descriptions. For years now, critics have been trying to argue that minorities are stopped disproportionately—and if you look at the crime numbers, it’s just not true. The numbers don’t lie.”
Public Advocate Bill de Blasio let folks know immediately that he is the only mayoral candidate in support of both City Council bills opting to appoint an inspector general over the NYPD and allow victims of racial profiling to sue the NYPD. He was among the many slamming Bloomberg’s comments as “outrageous” adding, “To say that we stop ‘too little’ shows just how out of touch Bloomberg has become. We urgently need both an inspector general for the NYPD and a ban on racial profiling so that we start to heal community and police relations.”
De Blasio, like Williams, was proud of the 40-11 City Council vote to appoint an inspector general over the NYPD and the 34-17 vote to enable people to file state court claims of racial profiling against the police. Bloomberg said he will veto both bills as City Council members are working hard to keep the supporters they already have and get one or two more.
Saying that Bloomberg’s remark was “insulting,” mayoral candidate Bill Thompson also reiterated that he would tweak stop-and-frisk as opposed to getting rid of it. At the same time, Thompson said of Bloomberg, “He basically said that if you’re Black or Latino, you’re automatically a murder suspect.”
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