New York City Mayor Bloomberg, speaking before last Sunday's gay rights parade, tried to defend his position supporting the NYPD's massive stop and frisk program directed against minority (mostly Black and Hispanic) youth. His remarks were so out of line that the New York Times wrote an editorial (7-2-13) criticizing his "loopy logic" and U.S. Representative Hakeem Jeffries (Dem. N.Y.) was moved to say his comments "were sad, disrespectful, hurtful, and quite unfortunate."
The mayor dismissed the concerns of the minority community that they were being disproportionately stopped by the police and were, in fact, being harassed by the department. The fact that only 9% of the stops in 2012 involved whites was not seen by the mayor as in any way evidence that the minority rate was overly disproportionate. In fact he thought too many white people were being stopped and they were the ones who should be complaining about disproportionate treatment. His reason was that only 7% of the 2012 murder rate was due to white people (this was the only crime statistic he gave).
It may come as a surprise to many New Yorkers that the problem with the NYPD is that it is harassing white people not minorities, but that is Bloomberg's position. He is reported as maintaining (Wall Street Journal, 7-1-13) that "The numbers are the numbers, and the numbers clearly show that the stops are generally proportionate with suspects' descriptions and for years now critics have been trying to argue that minorities are stopped disproportionately." The numbers show not enough minority youth are being stopped and too many white folks are. "The numbers don't lie," the mayor said.
Well, if that is the problem in New York-- harassment of white youth by the police, I don't understand what the mayor has against a federally appointed monitor to make sure the NYPD is not violating people's constitutional rights. The federal monitor would at least clear the mayor and his police commissioner Ray Kelly of discriminating against minority youth and thus undermine the charges of racism in high places.
But the mayor also thinks a disproportionate amount of crime is due to minority youth so if they were disproportionately stopped they would really be proportionally stopped because they would be being stopped proportionally to the percentage of crimes they were responsible for and not in proportion to their population with respect to the disproportionately stopped white people. I hope this is clear. It means whatever the mayor does will turn out to be ok, except for being unfair to white folk.
Here is the mayor's view on minority youth. He said the politicians running for mayor would rather try and get votes "than help us get out of this terrible situation where a disproportionate percentage of the crime is committed by a group of young kids that just don't have any future."
And why don't minority youth have any future? Is it because of the mismanaged educational system where the mayor would rather fight with the teachers than work with them to improve educational opportunities? Is it the lack of adequate after school programs and summer jobs, and employment training opportunities? Is due to slum housing and rent gouging of the poor? Could the NYPD and the mayor by targeting millions of minority youth as potential criminals because they "have no future" except crime be sending that very message to them-- no future for you!
I think it pretty clear that the mayor and his police commissioner have written off the majority of Black and Hispanic youth and are subjecting them to an unjustified program of stop and frisk harassment. The city council has just passed a bill creating an independent inspector general to check on abuse of power by the police. The mayor says he will veto it. The mayor should ask himself-- if the NYPD isn't doing anything wrong, what's the worry?
Thomas Riggins, PhD CUNY, is a retired university lecturer in philosophy and ancient history and the former book review editor for Political Affairs magazine.