Stop-and-frisk. Hot topic and getting hotter.
Three things to know:
1- It has been around forever.
2- When done properly, it is constitutional.
3- It is hard to do it right.
On the national stage, Mike Bloomberg is getting hammered for New York City’s former s&f policy, which reportedly helped drive down the crime rate, but was found to be unconstitutional. I’ll return to that in a minute.
In Philly, s&f was launched by Mayor Michael Nutter, who was and is a Bloomberg clone and acolyte. When announced, the constitutional Philly policy was wildly unpopular in some minority neighborhoods, which are often reflexively anti-cop, sometimes with good reason. It surprised me that a black mayor would launch it, but maybe only a black mayor could.
The “why” he did it is answered by a homicide rate that hit a near record of 391 in 2007, the year Nutter was elected. (The all-time record was 497 homicides in 1990.) People were calling us Killadelphia.
Something had to be done. It was an emergency and Nutter’s idea was to flood the zone — send extra cops into the most violent neighborhoods. In Philadelphia the most violent neighborhoods are poor neighborhoods, meaning minority neighborhoods. Those are facts and you may not like them, but facts are not racist.
I wrote about his plan at the time.
I was a little cool to the idea, but I was positively cold to bodies stacking up in the streets with a mayor pretending nothing was wrong.
In Philadelphia, the vast majority of homicide victims and perpetrators are black. That also is a fact, which means that any means used to reduce the murder rate reduces the number of black victims. Isn’t that a laudable goal?
As mayor, Nutter (now Bloomberg’s national policy director) said this week, “you are responsible for public safety. You must do everything you can, legally, to reduce violence.”
In New York, Bloomberg made a huge gaffe, which is defined as when a politician accidentally tells the truth.
Talking about s&f, here’s what he said:
“We want to spend a lot of money, put a lot of cops in the street, put those cops where the crime is, which is in the minority neighborhoods.”
That is factually correct, but he defined the high-crime area by color rather than by income. That was a near-fatal mistake that is now coming home to haunt him from a media that pretends to not know where most murders take place and who commits them.
Bloomberg also said that “95 percent of your murders, murderers and murder victims, fit one M.O. You can just take the description, Xerox it and pass it out to all the cops.
“They are male minorities, 15 to 25. That’s true in New York. It’s true in virtually every city. And that’s where the real crime is. You’ve got to get the guns out of the hands of the people that are getting killed.”
That’s profiling, but what Bloomberg said is either true or false.
If it is true, it is not racist. And if it is true, I am amazed by the number of black thought leaders who pretend it is not true.
Such as New York Times columnist Charles Blow’s racial hysteria:
“In 2002, the first year Bloomberg was mayor, 97,296 of these stops were recorded,” Blow wrote. “They surged during Bloomberg’s tenure to a peak of 685,724 stops in 2011, near the end of his third term. Nearly 90 percent of the people who were stopped and frisked were innocent of any wrongdoing.”
How unaware can he be? Using Blow’s own numbers, some 10 percent, or about 68,000, were guilty of some wrongdoing. That is a staggering number and is evidence that s&f works.
It is true that one unintended consequence of s&f was that a lot of minority youth got arrested when caught carrying not a gun, but marijuana and other drugs. That angered some people who apparently think the suspects’ rights were being abrogated by being arrested for breaking some other law.
“We did a calculation of how many people who would have been dead if we hadn’t brought down the murder rate and gotten guns off the streets,” said Bloomberg. “And the way you get the guns out of the kids’ hands is to throw ’em against the wall and frisk ’em.” That scares them, he said, into leaving their guns at home.
This was another problem. Most of those stopped weren’t packing, so why this tough-guy talk about throwing them against a wall? That comment deserved an apology — not s&f itself.
Bloomberg apologized, mainly for overusing the s&p procedure. He did not, and should not, apologize for using it at all.
Philadelphia still uses stop-and-frisk. A police spokesman told me new-on-the-job Commissioner Danielle Outlaw has made no decisions about it as yet.
Interestingly, when Jim Kenney ran for his first term, he vowed to end s&p. He is now in his second term and he has not ended it, even though some studies say it does not work.
We still have it because our progressive mayor and his police force — and columnist Blow’s statistics — know it is a tool in the crime-fighting kit, and as I said, nothing new.
It’s 1953 and I am living in the South Bronx, plagued by gang warfare, primarily between Puerto Rican (Latin Kings) and white gangs (Chaplains). It’s like “West Side Story” with no dancing and singing, but better weapons.
This particularly hot summer, to squelch possible violence, cops are given the green light to stop-and-frisk any “suspicious” youth, including me and my friends.
“White privilege” didn’t buy us a pass.
It was not a problem for us because we seldom left the safety of our own block and we did not carry weapons. The lid is so tight, groups of more than three teens are prohibited from congregating.
One time I am sitting with three friends on my own front stoop and the cops of the 41st Precinct — later to be known as Fort Apache — tell us to break it up.
My own stoop.
We broke it up.
I am not going to say we liked it. We didn’t. The word didn’t exist then, but we were being profiled. We understood it.
No one apologized then, and no one should apologize now, as long as stop-and-frisk is done in the right way for the right reasons — saving lives.