Stop-and-Frisk Recap: Things Getting Heated at City Hall


Well, things are certainly getting interesting over at City Hall over stop-and-frisk. Here’s a recap: First, NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly’s signature tactic gets a federal trial in the class-action case Floyd v. City of New York. The city leaks a report critical of the judge in the case, alleging she’s biased.

The Justice Department then signals it might get involved overseeing the stop-and-frisk program. Then the City Council passes bills aimed at creating an inspector general over the NYPD and reforming stop-and-frisk.

Mayor Bloomberg vows to veto those bills. He has argued that the race of people stopped mirrors the race of suspects. The problem with Bloomberg’s argument is that a much higher percentage of stops based based on much more vague reasons, such as the ever popular “furtive gesture.” For example, in the first quarter of 2013, “furtive gesture” stops totalled more than 50,000, and “person in high crime area” was the reason for more than 60,000 stops, while “fits description of suspect” totaled just 17,000.

Bloomberg kicked his rhetoric up a notch when he said Friday that the statistics show that police “stop whites too much and minorities too little.” This remark earned a predictable storm of outrage from various sectors, including the Democratic mayoral candidates.

On Sunday, Bloomberg defended himself, blaming the mayoral campaign, and saying, “The numbers are the numbers, and the numbers clearly show that the stops are generally proportionate with suspects’ descriptions and for years now critics have been trying to argue that minorities are stopped disproportionately. If you look at the crime numbers, that is just not true. The numbers don’t lie.”

Again, the numbers show that suspect’s description is one of the least cited reasons for a stop.

On Monday, it was reported that Bloomberg would use his money to fund political campaigns against council members who supported the stop-and-frisk bills and the creation of the inspector general over the police department.

Once again, our inboxes were flooded with denunciations:

From Communities United For Police Reform: “Since Mayor Bloomberg can’t make a credible argument as to why the city should continue racially profiling New Yorkers, he’s now seeking to sow fear and spread around his billions of dollars to threaten council members and buy their votes. The Community Safety Act bills that the Council passed with veto-proof majorities will advance both the civil rights and safety of New Yorkers. We’re confident council members will see through this cynical effort by the Mayor to use his extraordinary wealth for his own political gain at the expense of everyday New Yorkers.”

Comptroller and mayoral candidate John Liu: “Mayor Bloomberg’s outrageous attempt to buy votes and subvert democracy will not work this time. He can throw as much money at this issue as he wants, but the Council has rightly determined that discriminatory police tactics have no place in New York City. Stop and frisk is especially destructive, and the Mayor’s rhetoric based on flawed logic is verging on the absurd.”

What’s next?

From here, one wonders whether Bloomberg and Kelly are fighting back so stubbornly on stop-and-frisk because they’re concerned about their legacy. After all, tbey could be known as the first mayor and first police commissioner on whose watch the NYPD got both a federal monitor and an inspector general.