How do large Police Departments in major Cities deal with crime yet maintain and build trust with the citizens they protect? In New York City this debate is raging against the backdrop of a Federal Judge’s ruling that the Police Department’s stop and frisk Policy is unconstitutional.
Federal Judge Shira A. Scheindlin ruled on the practice Aug. 12, deeming the policy a violation of the U.S. Constitution.“This case is about the tension between liberty and public safety in the use of a proactive policing tool called “stop and frisk,’” she wrote in her decision. “The New York City Police Department (NYPD) made 4.4 million stops between January 2004 and June 2012. Over 80% of these 4.4 million stops were of blacks or Hispanics.” Scheindlin noted that each stop resulted in an interruption of the person’s life with detention and questioning taking place on public streets. “More than half of the time the police subjected the person to a frisk.”The case was brought by four men, Lalit Clarkson, Deon Dennis, David Floyd, and David Ourlicht, who all claimed they were stopped, questioned, and in some cases frisked with no reasonable cause.
The opposing sides on this issue are not talking to each other. The Mayor has appealed the Judge’s decision, which guarantees this issue is not going away any time soon. Civil Rights groups like the NAACP , the National Action Network, and the New York Civil Liberties Union have long maintained that this policy is unconstitutional and racist.New York City’s Police Commissioner Ray Kelly argues that it is an integral tool which his Department uses to keep the city safe.
Ray Kelly has long been criticized for creating a climate in New York which allows Police Officers to abuse young Black and Latino men. Critics accuse the NYPD of having quotas, which places undue burden on cops to make arrests and write tickets. The Department has stridently denied this, even as some members of the very Department has gone public claiming they are being forced to antagonize and arrest people to burnish the perception of a southern trend in crime. In other cases Cops have testified that serious crimes in white neighborhoods are being downplayed and sometimes not documented ,to further the narrative of declining crime in the city.
The fact is that Police must have the ability to reasonably stop, question and if necessary search anyone they suspect of having committed a crime, is about to commit , or is in the act of committing a crime. So what exactly is the problem? Why cant the police walk this fine line? Why can’t officers be respectful and reasonable in serving and protecting? Many young men in New York City complain of being stopped and roughed up twice on one street by different groups of cops all in the space of a few minutes. They allege they are abused verbally and physically . They allege when they complain,many complain of being searched several time all in one day. Many complain of being arrested and kept overnight, then released the next day without seeing a Judge.
Commissioner Ray Kelly responded to that claim by stating the following .“To that point, last year 97 percent of all shooting victims were black or Hispanic and reside in low-income neighborhoods,” he said. “Public housing where five percent of the city’s population resides experiences 20 percent of the shootings. There were more stops with suspicious activity in neighborhoods with higher crime because that’s where the crime is.” [Ray Kelly]
So does the NYPD Commissioner have a point? Yes he does, it is true that there are inordinate amounts of crime in Black and Hispanic Neighborhoods. It is also true that the same cannot be said to be true in largely Caucasian neighborhoods. In cities all over America The rate of blacks killing blacks, and Latina gangs killing each other is frightening. Police Departments have a duty not only to stamp it out but to make sure that it is discouraged. Police may only do so with strong no-nonsense approach which tells criminals exactly who is in charge.
New York city is not the only city with a crime problem, Kansas city, Missouri: Little Rock Arkansas: Camden, New Jersey: Newberg, New York: Chicago, Illinois: Detroit, Michigan: Police Departments are responsible for citizen safety, they are criticized when crime is out of control yet lambasted when they adopt certain measures to deal effectively with the cancer of crime. With that said Police cannot operate outside of the laws they are sworn to uphold. That I believe is where the rubber meets the road. How do they protect citizens rights , and protect them from crime simultaneously? It all comes down to how Police Officers do their jobs !
Those opposed to stop and frisk are justified in their outrage at the instances of abuse, yet the Police Commissioner points to over 700 guns removed from the streets as a result of this process. Even as we register our disgust with the instances of humiliation heaped onto our young people of color , we ignore the 700 weapons removed at our peril. What we also ignore unfairly, are the amount of lives that may have been saved, and other crimes prevented as a result of the fear criminals have that they may be apprehended before they can carry out their criminal acts. In fact Ray Kelly has transcripts of conversations supporting that very notion.
The solution to the problem lies in allowing Police to use stop and frisk as one tool in the arsenal to fight crime. However police officers must adhere to the guarantees enshrined in law that they may only do so when they have reasonable cause to believe, that someone may , have, or is about to commit a crime. It cannot be that the criteria for that suspicion is the color of one’s skin.
Even as Commissioner Ray Kelly points to the fact that when crimes goes up, the Black and Hispanic community suffers the most, he must be mindful that these communities must also feel that the police work on their behalf. The entire campaign of keeping the streets safe, removing guns from the streets , and down trending crime statistics as advanced by Mayor Bloomberg is missing one component. The entire population of the city must feel that thy are doing it on their behalf, not doing it on their backs. Michael Bloomberg would do well in understanding that acting like a second Giuliani is not a positive for him.
It serves the interest of black leadership to face the realities of crime within the African-American community, denying the seriousness of it does nothing to fix the problems. The socio- economic conditions affecting the black community creates criminals. Young teenage women having babies out of wedlock adds to the problem. Fathers not taking care of their children adds to the problem. Black people claiming run down neighborhoods adds to the problem. We have some work to do .