On Tuesday morning, Mayor Michael Bloomberg (I-NY) launched an impassioned defense of the New York Police Department, which sparked outrage for spying on Muslims and aggressively targeting minorities in their stop-and-frisk program. Bloomberg attacked a bill that would make it easier for stop-and-frisk victims to sue the police, as well as one that appoint an Inspector General to oversee the NYPD’s counterterrorism operations.
The mayor warned that the bills’ scrutiny on police would make the city less safe, invoking the Boston bombing, the September 11 attacks, and gun violence. The installation of an Inspector General, Bloomberg claimed, could make intelligence gathering agencies “less willing to share information” if they knew it could be seen by the City Council. “Passing any legislation that undermines our counterterrorism capabilities would be the height of irresponsibility. God forbid terrorists succeed in striking our city because of a politically driven law that undermines the NYPD’s intelligence gathering efforts.”
He also argued stop-and-frisk is an essential part of his campaign for responsible gun laws, even equating the New York Civil Liberties Union, a civil rights advocacy group, with the National Rifle Association, the powerful lobbying organization for gun manufacturers:
I loathe that illegal guns threaten our communities every day, especially black and Latino communities, because politicians don’t have the courage to stand up for the measures that can save lives. In Washington, some elected officials don’t have the courage to stand up to the special interests on the right and pass common sense gun laws. And in New York City, some don’t have the courage to stand up to special interests on the left and support common sense policing tactics like stop and frisk. We don’t need extremists on the left or the right running our police department, whether it’s the NRA or the NYCLU.
The dire consequences of allowing citizens to sue police, Bloomberg warned, would deter police from doing their job and would let judges “micro-manage the NYPD.” He also denied that over 86 percent of the people stopped by the police were black or Latino, stating, “Critics who claim that police stops are based on race never seem to mention the fact that the majority of the NYPD’s patrolling officers are minorities.”
While minorities have made significant inroads in the police department, patrolling officers recently testified that high-level officials, who are still overwhelmingly white, directed them to target young black males and pressured them to meet a quota of five stops per month, regardless of whether or not they resulted an arrest. Commissioner Ray Kelly openly admitted that the policy was targeting minorities because he wanted to “instill fear” in them, according to the testimony of a state senator.
Far from letting “extremists” run the NYPD, the NYCLU and many other civil rights advocates support the bill in question because it would help people sue the police if their rights are infringed upon. The NYPD’s misconduct has already cost the city $22 million in one year’s worth of lawsuits, with plaintiffs ranging from a 12-year-old girl who was arrested for doodling on her school desk to a 38-year-old veteran who was punched and pepper-sprayed while discussing Memorial Day plans with a friend on the street. Last month’s stop-and-frisk trial uncovered even more widespread abuses, such as the detention of a 13-year-old boy who was taunted for “crying like a little girl” when NYPD officers cuffed him.