Stop and Frisk About to Become Angry Centerpiece Of NYC City Council Races


Stop-and-frisk arguments have once again surfaced to the top of New York policy debate as news emerged that Mayor Michael Bloomberg is backing more city council candidates who actively support the contentious "stop-and-frisk" policy in the upcoming elections. 

The term "stop-and-frisk" already has a cold and discriminatory connotation. Yet we all too easily forget that even in a progressive liberal state like New York, stop-and-frisk policies are not only abused but corrode trust between the police and communities, defeating the purpose of creating a safe environment in the first place. The powerfully wealthy Bloomberg plans on taking advantage of the upcoming elections to gather City Council support specifically for his once-vetoed stop-and-frisk bill.

The statistics for stop-and-frisk illustrated its massive unpopularity through some shockingly lopsided results: 87% of the people stopped under stop-and-frisk in 2012 were black or Latino, and only 9% were white. In what will likely cause immense pain for the city, a bill was passed last Thursday that enables lawsuits against the NYPD for anyone who believes cops used racially based profiling as a reason for conducting a stop-and-frisk. Needless to say, the city can expect a flood of expensive and time-consuming lawsuits.

Bloomberg attempted to veto the bill but it passed 34-17, exactly enough to override the mayor's decision. However, this also means that there only needs to be one City Council member who'll flip sides to kill the bill. With elections just around the corner, and every single seat to be fought for, Deputy Mayor Howard Wolfson described Bloomberg's PAC as one that aims to "cast a wide net" and try to persuade council members to flip their votes.

That being said, there are still some members, like Erik Dilan (D-Brooklyn), who even if approached are unlikely to ditch their support of the measure. "It would have to be [an] incredibly compelling [case], and it would have to be factual," Dilan said. "It can't be more of the same. Once you go on the record as having voted for something the first time around, it's hard to change your vote without a substantial revelation of fact." The fact that each politician is avoiding dramatic maverick moves may prove to be a larger obstacle than Bloomberg or his wallet may have anticipated.

Bloomberg's earlier comments in defense of stop-and-frisk that were made one day after the City Council passed two bills to rein in the controversial police incited near-riots from some mayoral candidates who called the statements "outrageous and out of touch" and "unworthy."

According to Bloomberg, "One newspaper and one news service, they just keep saying, 'Oh, it's a disproportionate percentage of a particular ethnic group.' That may be. But it's not a disproportionate percentage of those who witnesses and victims describe as committing the murders … In that case, incidentally, I think, we disproportionately stop whites too much and minorities too little," the mayor said. "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."

The NYCLU, however, begs to differ. Their research states that "from 2002 to 2011, black and Latino residents made up close to 90 percent of people stopped, and about 88 percent of stops — more than 3.8 million — were of innocent people. Even in neighborhoods that are predominantly white, black and Latino New Yorkers face the disproportionate brunt of stop-and-frisk. For example, in 2011, Black and Latino New Yorkers made up 24% of the population in Park Slope, but 79% of stops. This, on its face, is discriminatory."

Along with opposition from a large portion of the city, complaints in the black community about the aggressive use of stop-and-frisk policing have led to a federal lawsuit challenging the practice and fueled a passionate debate in the mayoral race.