At a speech delivered to an audience of cops at police headquarters this week, outgoing New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg was a man on fire. He blasted critics of the NYPD’s controversial stop and frisk policy, including the various Democratic candidates who want his job. With the election just six months away, several of the mayoral hopefuls seem to be basing their entire campaigns on a wholesale overhaul of the policy that allows cops to pat down potential suspects.
I understand how unfair life seems when 90 percent of those being stopped are black and Latino. But New York’s black and Latino kids are stopped at roughly the same percentage they commit crimes.
- Geraldo Rivera
Critics allege, and statistics confirm, that the vast majority of those frisked are young men of color. But those statistics make clear that the vast majority of those saved by the policy are also young minorities. “About 90 percent of our murder victims in our city are black or Latino,” said the mayor.
His smoldering anger barely contained, and with uncharacteristically blunt, harsh language, Bloomberg’s speech aimed special scorn at three great liberal organizations, The New York Times, the Center for Constitutional Rights and the New York Civil Liberties Union, accusing them of hypocrisy and worse. Focusing on a Times editorial which denounced stop and frisk as a “wildly loathed practice,” the mayor made reference to the recent shooting death of a black kid in the Bronx, 17-year old Alphonza Bryant; a murder not even mentioned in the ‘Newspaper of Record.’
“Let me tell you what I loathe,” the mayor of America’s safest big city said sarcastically. “I loathe that 17-year old minority children can be senselessly murdered in the Bronx and some of the media doesn’t even consider it news. After his murder, there was no outrage from the Center for Constitutional Rights, or the NYCLU. He was just a victim of too many guns on our streets.”
The NYCLU fired back saying the “NYPD acts like it’s above the law and accountable to no one.” But the next day, the dead kid’s grieving mother told The New York Daily News that she agreed with the mayor and the cops. Most importantly, the mom said that her son might still be alive if there were more stop and frisks.
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“Some people are saying stop and frisks are terrorizing our kids. Some kids need to be terrorized. Maybe my son wouldn’t have been shot if the right kids were terrorized.”
I’ve been around New York a long time. When I came home from college back in the 1960s and moved back to the Lower East Side of Manhattan, the city was in the throes of the heroin epidemic. Violent gun crimes and murder made my neighborhood a war zone. The odds of being jacked or killed during a trip to the store or a walk down the street were intense. Now everything has changed. After 20 years of tough love, eight with Mayor Rudy Giuliani, the next 12 with Mayor Bloomberg, New York has been re-made. The murder rate today is about one-fourth what it was when I lived on embattled Avenue C.
Much like the NYCLU today, as a long-haired radical lawyer then, representing the Puerto Rican activist Young Lords and other poor people, I viewed cops as the enemy; an occupying force of angry white guys from the suburbs hell-bent on harassing my minority clients. But today’s department is not the same NYPD. For one thing, it is the most integrated and diverse force in the nation. Officers are schooled in community relations and specifically how to use the stops without busting chops or wrecking a kid’s life if they find a few joints in his pockets or a hash pipe.
Inherently, it is a pain in the butt to be patted down by a cop who suspects you’re doing something you’re not doing. And I understand how unfair life seems when 90 percent of those being stopped are black and Latino. But New York’s black and Latino kids are stopped at roughly the same percentage they commit crimes. And they live longer in New York than they do in cities like Chicago, Philadelphia, Newark, New Orleans or Detroit. That’s why I advocate the application of New York’s stop and frisk policies in every police precinct in every big city in America where gun violence raises above a certain threshold.
“Let me begin by saying something you don’t hear often enough,” the mayor opened his remarks to those assembled cops. “Thank you. You prevent crimes from happening.” At the end of the speech, the cops gave the mayor a thunderous ovation. Also applauding were parents like Alphonza Bryant’s brokenhearted mom.
Geraldo Rivera currently serves as a roaming correspondent-at-large for Fox News Channel. He joined the network in 2001 as a war correspondent.