New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly enthusiastically defended the New York Police Department’s use of the controversial “stop and frisk” program during an appearance on NBC’s Meet the Press Sunday morning. Kelly went so far as to claim that more New Yorkers would die without the procedure in place.
Stop and frisk is a commonly used practice wherein NYC police officers question tens of thousands of pedestrians and may frisk them for weapons and contraband. The program disproportionately targets young black and Latino men, leading many to claim that it constitutes racial profiling — a view that was affirmed by federal judge Shira Scheindlin, who ruled the practice to be unconstitutional last week.
Host David Gregory asked Kelly if more Americans would die if the judge’s ruling — which Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s (I) administration has already appealed — were to stand and the program be dismantled. Kelly replied, “No question about it, violent crime will go up,” before launching into a more extensive defense of stop and frisk premised on higher crime rates among minorities:
We need some balance here. The stark reality is that violence is happening disproportionately in minority communities. And that unfortunately is in big cities throughout America. We have record low numbers of murders in New York City, record low numbers of shootings, we’re doing something right to save lives. […]
This is something that’s integral to policing. This happens throughout America at any police jurisdiction. You have to do it. Officers have to have the right of inquiry, if they see some suspicious behavior. So I can assure you, this is not just a New York City issue. It’s an issue throughout America. And this case has to be appealed in my judgment because it will be taken as a template and have significant impact in policing throughout America.
In her ruling against stop and frisk, Scheindlin wrote, “[T]he policy encourages the targeting of young black and Hispanic men based on their prevalence in local crime complaints. This is a form of racial profiling.”
More than 5 million New York residents have been stopped and frisked under the program since Bloomberg took office in 2002. Over 86 percent of those who have been stopped are either black or Latino. But the mass random stops haven’t been particularly efficient — a staggering 4.4 million of New Yorkers who were targeted under the program, which cost taxpayer $22 million in civil rights lawsuits last year, were innocent.
There have also been incidents where a stop and frisk ends with deadly consequences. In March, overzealous NYPD officers shot and killed 16-year-old black male Kimani Gray after stopping him for “suspiciously” adjusting his belt. The NYPD claims that Gray had drawn a weapon on the officers — but eyewitness testimony disputes that account, and an autopsy revealed that several shots were fired from behind Gray.
That hasn’t stopped the Bloomberg administration from singing the practice’s praises. Bloomberg recently dismissed Scheindlin as “some woman” who knows “absolutely zero” about policing. “Your safety and the safety of your kids is now in the hands of some woman who does not have the expertise to do it,” he said during a radio interview Friday.