Whoever is elected to lead the city of New York will preside over a teeming metropolis where hundreds of thousands of young black and Latino men are routinely stopped for questioning, then frisked by police officers -- for no real reason, according to law enforcement records.
All four leading candidates in New York’s Democratic mayoral primary race have expressed major concerns with the New York Police Department’s stop-and-frisk program, but none say they’ll abolish the program.
In 2012, New Yorkers were stopped by the police 532,911 times under the program, which allows NYPD officials to stop individuals they think are reasonably suspicious for questioning and/or conduct a physical search for weapons. An astonishing 89 percent, or 473,644 of the individuals who were stopped, were innocent, according to an ACLU analysis of NYPD data.
About 55 percent of individuals stopped in 2012 were black, 32 percent were Latino and 10 percent were white. Those numbers are even more alarming if you consider 71 percent of the NYC population is white, 18 percent black and 18 percent Latino, according to 2012 Census data.
“What troubles me is the fact that the suspicion seems to be wrong 90 percent of the time,” said U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin in Manhattan during the city’s closing argument at a trial challenging the so-called stop-and-frisk policy in May. “That’s a high error rate.”
Still, the extreme high error rate don’t seem to lead any of the candidates to take extreme measures.
The Candidates on Stop-and-Frisk
Christine Quinn City Council Speaker Quinn leads the mayoral race with 27 percent support among likely Democratic voters, according to the latest polls. She says stop-and-frisk can continue under her leadership as long as the number of stops comes down.
“If I’m mayor, Ray Kelly will be offered that job with the clear charge [that] you get stop-and-frisks down. You do that constitutionally. If you can’t agree to that, don’t take the job. If you take it and you don’t do it, you’ll get fired,” Quinn said, CBS reports.
Bill de Blasio Following Quinn with 21 percent of support among likely voters is former city comptroller Bill de Blasio.
“I think, particularly for young men of color, it’s sending a horrible message to them that they are not part of this society in the same way,” de Blasio said of stop-and-frisk Tuesday morning on MSNBC’s Morning Joe.
Still, de Blasio would not get rid of the program. His spokesperson told ABC News/Univision de Blasio “would reform stop-and-frisk to end the practice of racial profiling that targets communities of color.”
Anthony Weiner And then there’s the man who needs no introduction. He’s critical of stop-and-frisk, but would not abolish it.
“We have to stop using the tool of stop-and-frisk against particular communities,” Weiner said last month at a campaign stop at the National Action Network in Harlem. “When you have a situation where 97, 98, 99 percent of the stops are resulting in no crime, no gun, no police report being submitted beyond the ’250' stating you stopped the guy, you’re a bad cop. You’re not doing your job.”
Weiner, too, promises vague reforms of the NYPD’s practice.
Bill Thompson Former Comptroller Bill Thompson made national headlines earlier this week when he compared the stop-and-frisk program to George Zimmerman, the Florida man who shot and killed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.
"Here in New York City, we have institutionalized Mr. Zimmerman’s suspicion with a policy that all but requires our police officers to treat young black and Latino men with suspicion, to stop them and frisk them because of the color of their skin,” Thompson told members of the AbundantLife Church in Prospect Heights. If our government profiles people because of skin color and treats them as potential criminals, how can we expect citizens to do any less?"
Thompson’s position on what he’d do with stop-and-frisk is unclear, but historically he’s been soft on the program.
The New York Times’ Andrew Meier, who’s been following this primary closely, points out that until recently Thompson had a middle-of-the-road stance on the NYPD tactic.
“[Thompson] has literally worked both sides of stop-and-frisk, except just recently he’s evoked the specter of Trayvon... that’s an evolution, without question,” Meier told radio listeners on the The Leonard Lopate Show.
New Yorkers have not elected a Democratic mayor since 1989, even though registered Democrats outnumber Republicans 6-to-1 in the city. The top contenders are all Democrats, and polls show it’s likely one of them will become the next mayor of New York City.
Of the major Democratic mayoral candidates, only Controller John Liu believes NYPD’s controversial tactic should be abolished. Liu holds 6 percent of likely voters, according to the latest Quinnipiac University survey released Monday.