Dear Mayor Bloomberg:
Ignoring Constitutional protections is no way to combat inner city violence. If you can’t specifically address gun violence, then you’re failing your constituents, and you’re ineffective at your job.
New York, NY --- Yesterday there was a silent civil rights march through the streets of Manhattan. It was somewhat historic because the LGBT community marched in lockstep with their black and Hispanic neighbors. As the Washington Post reported in their article “Civil rights, gay activists march to NYC mayor’s home, demand end to stop-and-frisk policing,” the large crowd was dignified and peaceful.
“We are black, white, Asian, LGBT, straight, Jewish, Muslim and Christian,” New York City Council member Jumaane Williams said before Sunday’s march began, standing alongside American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten. “Mayor Bloomberg has been our great uniter. We’ve been screaming loudly, and he hasn’t heard us, but hopefully he’ll hear the deafening silence.”
I live in beautiful San Francisco, and I love it here, but truth be told - my heart and soul will forever live in New York. Growing up twenty some odd miles due west of the vibrant streets and bright lights of Manhattan, the big city was very alluring to this suburban kid. I'd dream about New York, I fantasized about life in the city, and when I was 18 years old, I sang “New York, New York” in clubs from the Upper West side down to Sheridan Square.
When I lived in the West Village for over ten years, I had some of the best times of my life, and the memories enrich me still. I will forever identify myself as a New Yorker, as I’m sure I will to my dying day.
When I speak or write about New York, I’m referring primarily to Manhattan, because that’s where I lived. That’s the borough that I know, and it’s my old stomping grounds. Like my friend Linda Evangelista’s hair color, New York is constantly changing, most often for the better and occasionally for the worse. Regardless, the change is often terrific, while the bad can be spectacularly horrific.
I have to say that this “stop and frisk” policy is entirely horrific.
I first read about Mayor Bloomberg’s “stop and frisk” policy a few weeks ago, and I was saddened and shocked. I couldn’t believe that a practice that gives the police department the right to stop anyone at any time, simply because a person might look “suspicious,” was legal. What happened to our Constitution?
We live in a nation where we embrace the rule of law. Our system of justice relies on establishing “probable cause” to search someone, or one’s property, because law enforcement believes one has committed a crime, or is conspiring to commit a crime. This seems to be basic police work, and an elementary part of the job. Looking “suspicious” has never been sufficient to establish probable cause, and this practice is crazy at best.
When probable cause is eliminated from the equation, our constitutional rights are severely diminished and nearly gone. While I can appreciate the need to balance public safety and our Constitutional rights, it is the Constitution that maintains our freedoms, and due process under the law. The Constitutional guarantee that ensures that citizens won’t be subjected to unreasonable searches and seizure of personal property, must apply here.
I wonder how the New York Police Department (NYPD) defines “suspicious” in a legal and practical sense. I’ll bet every police officer has a slightly different idea about what “suspicious” looks like to them.
In New York city, the NYPD stopped 685,000 people in 2011. Half that number were frisked, and an inordinate number of those stopped and frisked were black and Hispanic. That’s a nightmare in my view, and unjust, most assuredly uncivilized, and without a doubt unconstitutional.
“In most cities, when you ask who gets beaten up by the cops, the answer comes back: black people, people of color, and the gay community,” Benjamin Jealous, head of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, said on MSNBC.
Jealous said that “the notion that this make us safer really defies logic,” noting that other large cities have cut their crime rate without resorting to stop-and-frisk methods.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly defend the policy, saying the program keeps guns off New York streets and helps stop crime before it happens.
Speaking at a Christian cultural center on Sunday in Brooklyn, Bloomberg said he is working with police to ensure that people are treated respectfully when they are stopped.Mayor Bloomberg says that he’s working with police to treat people respectfully? The mere fact that he made that statement indicates that people are NOT being treated respectfully. When you predominantly target people of color for the “stop and frisk,” you have already disrespected the individual, the person’s race, and every citizen of the city.
This is a band aid for a larger problem, and that’s gun violence in urban centers. Ignoring the Constitution is no way to combat inner city violence. If you want to address gun violence, then enact legislation that addresses gun violence. Don’t target city residents for subjectively looking “suspicious” to a law enforcement officer. If you can’t do something specifically to target gun violence, then you’re failing your constituents, and you’re ineffective at your job.
I find it hard to believe that no one has filed a class action lawsuit against the city.
I was extremely happy to hear that the LGBT community was joining the black community in protesting this misguided policy. If I was in New York this past weekend, I would have joined the silent march to Mayor Bloomberg’s house.
This policy has to stop - it’s one of the practices that Fidel Castro, Benito Mussolini, and Adolf Hitler were known for, and somehow I doubt that Michael Bloomberg wants “stop and frisk” to be his legacy, for he wouldn’t be in good company.
I want to keep loving the city in my dreams, not the current police state that induces nightmares, and ignores the Constitution, for citizens and visitors alike.
Do your job Mayor Bloomberg. The Constitution and the people require it.
VIA: The Washington Post
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