It comes as no surprise that controversy would ride the coattails of the news yesterday that Attorney General Eric Holder may suggest a federal monitor over the NYPD should stop-and-frisk be deemed unconstitutional in Floyd v. New York. Bloomberg and NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly freaked out in a teleconference with Holder the other day when they heard about the Justice Department’s proposal. And yesterday, at an unrelated press conference, the m ayor made his opposition to the proposal absolutely, 100 percent clear.
Contrary to an inspector general–a City Council proposal in the Community Safety Act currently making its way through the legislature–a federal monitor would act as a measure of checks and balances for the municipal law enforcement agency. It would ensure that the boys in blue were respecting federal guidelines of civil rights in the wake of stop-and-frisk and Muslim surveillance controversies while the IG would simply be a watchman over police action and behavior.
By doing so, Thomas Perez, the assistant attorney general for civil rights of this nature who first phoned City Hall about the plans, argued that the monitor would “[improve] public confidence, [make] officers’ jobs safer, and [increase] the ability of the department to fight crime.” Bloomberg doesn’t think so.
“We think that a monitor would be even more disruptive than an IG,” the mayor said. “It’s just a terrible idea and it’s not needed. … It just makes no sense whatsoever, when lives are on the line, to try to change the rules and hamper the police department from doing their job.” For justification, Bloomberg, as per usual in his defense, pointed to low crime rates as evidence that the NYPD was doing just fine without oversight.
Yes, of course, crime rates have dropped way below Giuliani levels and the city is way safer off than it was in 2001–with migrations into once-crime-ridden areas like Bed-Stuy and Crown Heights, it’s hard to argue otherwise at this point. But that’s not the issue here (and let’s save the gentrification talk for another time).
The federal monitor isn’t following statistics of success; it came from the last decade of controversy plaguing the NYPD. While crime has dropped tremendously, attention toward stop-and-frisk has increased to the point that the practice has found itself in federal court to determine whether or not the constitution allows for such a practice to exist in 2013. The specifically targeted surveillance of the Muslim community in a post-9/11 environment has also garnered lawsuits from the Justice Department based on its legality. And let us never forget the NYPD tapes exposed by fellow Voice scribe Graham Rayman.
So the focus here shouldn’t be on track record, Mr. Mayor. To say “it just makes no sense whatsoever” disregards the notion that civil rights under Kelly’s police force has seen a lot of shit over the past decade. People are questioning whether your seemingly unchecked police force is “phenomenally managed” and if its practices comply with the law, as you’re “100 percent sure” they do. In a democracy, that discussion should be welcomed and, with a matter as important to our lives as law and order, encouraged.
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