If you are a black or brown male such as myself you should remember the name Shira A. Scheindlin. Ms. Scheindlin is a United States District Court Judge who was appointed by President Bill Clinton in 1994, and as of yesterday she is the judge who decided to stand up to both New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and his police commissioner Ray Kelly.
It was Judge Scheindlin who issued a ruling on Monday that said the “Stop and Frisk” policy employed by the New York City Police Department violated the constitutional rights of minority citizens of the nation’s largest and most famous city.
In her ruling Judge Scheindlin found that the NYPD resorted to “a policy of indirect racial profiling” and called for a federal monitor to oversee board reforms of the tactics used by the city’s police officers. She also called for the possibility of body worn cameras to be attached to certain officers.
Upon hearing the news of the ruling Hizzoner the mayor stopped just short of having a public meltdown. In a press conference Bloomberg accused Judge Scheindlin of “not understanding how policing works” and that she had misrepresented what the Constitution allows, putting forward a large portion of his very own “middle aged white guy privilege.” Apparently not wanting to be left out Police Commissioner Kelly chimed in by saying that the thing that upset him the most was Judge Scheindlin accusing the police of engaging in racial profiling. Bloomberg also sounded the horns of fear by saying “this ruling is very dangerous” and said that crime would once again spike because of it.
Bloomberg clearly has no problem about being misguided on this issue being that he has been for a longtime. Crime in New York City, in direct correlation with crime across the country is down significantly. What the Mayor negates to mention is that while New York’s 600 murders last year were 600 too many they pale in comparison to the 2200 that took place in 1990 right on the verge of former Mayor David Dinkins taking office. Dinkins, and as much it pains me to say this Rudy Giuliani found ways to bring down crime without resorting to a racist policy like “Stop and Frisk.” (Giuliani did give us Amadou Diallo and Abner Louima)
The most offensive part of Bloomberg and Kelly’s “middle aged white guy privilege” is this notion that young black and brown men in New York who have never been involved in and have no plans to take part in criminal activity have to “suck it up” and “take one for the team” because of some shady elements that may exist in their communities. If your African-American or Latino you must be detained by police because they apparently just can’t take the chance on you not being a criminal. The burden of proof on people of color when it comes to their innocence is something white people don’t have to deal with.
There is also the absolute fact that “Stop and Frisk” has been an ineffective policy in combating crime. According to the NYPD’s own statistics guns recovered from police stops amounted to less than 2% among Black, White, and Latino men in the city. There is absolutely no way that Bloomberg, Kelly and company can justify the use of Stop and Frisk as an effective tool to combat gun violence. It has however played a huge role in the imprisonment of young black and brown men when it comes to marijuana arrests. Because of the heavy police presence in New York’s minority neighborhoods, and the lack of one on say the Upper West Side, white kids who possess and smoke just as much marijuana according to statistics don’t face the same possibility of being arrested and placed in the criminal justice system. -Which makes the other big news of the day, the annoucement by Attorney General Eric Holder that he will do away with mandatory minimum sentences on drug possession so important.-
While the Bloomberg administration continues to laud the phony effectiveness of his signature program what gets lost is that Stop and Frisk fosters an already contentious relationship between the NYPD and the community, a relationship that has already been troubled because of incidents involving Ramarley Graham, Sean Bell and others.
Police officers who don’t respect the communities citizens, who treat everyone as suspected criminals and who don’t give the same respect to those citizens that they would want for themselves turn people away from being cooperative with them when real crime is occurring.
I for one am glad that the Bloomberg’s term as Mayor is coming to an end simply because he is not and has never been interested in working with his constituents who inhabit New York’s black and brown neighborhoods on combating crime lawfully and without prejudice. The question now is will the Bloomberg legacy of Stop and Frisk be in effect long after he is gone.