**Check out this story about Communities United for Police Reform (CPR), the new campaign to end discriminatory policing in NYC. Peoples' Justice, PJ member orgs: Justice Committee, Malcolm X Grassroots Movement and Make the Road New York and many other grassroots orgs are all members of CPR. Sign up for campaign updates at:http://changethenypd.org/ and check out our up-coming week of actions: http://www.changethenypd.org/week-of-action**
Stop-and-Frisk Opponents Set
Sights on Mayoral Race
By KATE TAYLOR, Published:
February 21, 2012
Two dozen advocacy and
grass-roots organizations, seeking to make police conduct an issue in the 2013
mayoral campaign, said Tuesday that they were forming a coalition to raise
awareness of what they consider racially discriminatory practices by the New York Police Department.
Leaders of the groups
involved, which include the Legal Aid Society, the Center for Constitutional
Rights and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, said they planned to pressure
political candidates to take positions on controversial practices, like
stop-and-frisk, that disproportionately affect low-income minorities.
“We will make it
impossible to run for citywide office in New York City without taking a
position on stop-and-frisk,” Udi Ofer, the advocacy director at the New York
Civil Liberties Union, said, adding that the coalition, called Communities United for Police Reform, would also inform voters about “which candidates
stand which way on this issue.”
Robert Gangi, the director
of the Police Reform Organizing Project at the Urban Justice Center, a member of the
coalition, said he believed that there was unlikely to be significant change in
policing under the current administration, and so advocates were focused on the
“It’s basically to exploit
the opportunity of the campaign to make it more and more a part of the citywide
debate,” he said of the coalition.
As one of its first steps,
the coalition is supporting legislation, set to be introduced in the City
Council as early as next week, that would strengthen the Police Department’s
prohibition against profiling. Other bills set to be introduced soon would
create an inspector general’s office in the department and require the police
to notify people of their right, in many instances, to refuse to be searched.
Mr. Ofer said the
coalition was not necessarily seeking to end stop-and-frisk, but rather to halt
what he called its discriminatory use and its “exponential increase.”
The Police Department’s
use of stop-and-frisks has increased significantly under Mayor Michael R.
Bloomberg. Figures released last week showed that police officers stopped and
questioned people 684,330 times in 2011, a 14 percent increase over 2010 and a
roughly 600 percent increase from a decade ago. As in previous years, the vast
majority of those stopped — 87 percent — were black or Latino.
Mr. Bloomberg has defended
the practice, calling it an effective crime-fighting tool and rejecting
assertions that police officers target minorities.
In an e-mail, Paul J.
Browne, a spokesman for the Police Department, said that curtailing what he
called effective police practices like stop-and-frisk “could have unintended
consequences, since they now save lives, particularly among young men of color,
who are disproportionately the victims of gun violence.”
“In the last decade, since
the current administration took office,” he added, “there have been 5,430
murders, compared to 11,058 the decade before, because of stops and other
policies of police engagement.”
But several of the
expected candidates for mayor in 2013 have been critical of the practice.
The Manhattan borough
president, Scott M. Stringer, has described its use as “riddled with racial
profiling” and has proposed several changes to police guidelines, including
establishing clear behavioral triggers to justify a stop-and-frisk.
William C. Thompson Jr.,
the former comptroller and 2009 Democratic candidate for mayor, said during
that campaign that he thought stop-and-frisk was a valuable policing tool but
that it was being overused — a position he affirmed in an interview on Tuesday.
The public advocate, Bill
de Blasio, has said that he believed the Police Department should be making
only 100,000 to 200,000 street stops per year, far below the current number.
And the City Council
speaker, Christine C. Quinn, expressed concerns about the practice in a recent
letter to the police commissioner, Raymond W. Kelly. She described
stop-and-frisk as “a viable and effective crime-fighting tool” but said the
department should more closely monitor the use of the tactic and discipline
officers who misuse it.
Jumaane D. Williams, a
city councilman from Brooklyn who is working with the new coalition, said he
hoped to introduce the legislation on profiling and searches at the Council
meeting next Wednesday. The Police Department has a ban on profiling, but the
proposed law would strengthen it, prohibiting practices that may not be
intentionally discriminatory but which have the effect of being so.
“I think these bills go a
long way to start making the N.Y.P.D. accountable to the community that they serve,” Mr.
The coalition also plans to
go after other police practices that have a disproportionate effect on minority
and low-income people, including arrests for marijuana possession, and patrols in which officers go up and
down the stairwells of public housing projects, arresting people or giving them
tickets for trespassing if they cannot produce proof of residence.