Yes, people are going to look at you funny in Bumblefuck, Ohio, for having a little brown girl. Welcome
Another salvo has been fired in the siege on the civil liberties of people of color in New York City, where yesterday, Mayor Michael Bloomberg struck down by veto two important measures meant to curtail the city’s controversial Stop & Frisk Law. Raw Story reports:
“Bloomberg called the bills dangerous and irresponsible and said they would make the city less safe.
One measure would create an independent inspector general to monitor the New York City Police Department. The other would expand the definition of racial profiling and allow people who believe they have been profiled to sue police in state court.
Bloomberg has defended the policy of stopping, questioning and frisking suspected wrongdoers to fight crime.”
These two measures together are known as the Community Safety Act (CSA), and were voted in by the New York City Council with the two-thirds majority necessary to override a veto. The Act will go back to the Council for override votes shortly, and the where the broad-based support for these ambitious proposals may very well be undermined by Bloomberg himself. Per the Associated Press:
“Bloomberg has indicated he’d try to persuade lawmakers to change their minds, and the billionaire mayor has suggested he might amplify his message with campaign contributions: “We’ll see what I’m going to do. The bottom line is I make no bones about it: I’m telling you I’m going to support those candidates” who agree, he said this month.”
Talk about “baring it all”, in terms of institutionalized bribery. Bloomberg seems pretty desperate to stuff the pockets of anyone on the city council to get them on his side. It’s easy to understand why, when you start to examine what the CSA would accomplish.
The proposed inspector general position would stand in a sort of lateral opposition to Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, the architect of Stop & Frisk. According to AP report, the IG position would be imbued with subpoena power to “explore and recommend, but not force, changes to the NYPD’s [Stop & Frisk] policies and techniques.” Independent watchdog groups have provided overwhelming evidence that Stop & Frisk is institutionalized racial profiling, disproportionately applied in communities of color throughout the city. The last thing Kelly — whose policies have recently made him an attractive candidate for head of the Department Of Homeland Security — needs is an internal state-appointed watchdog corroborating arguments with independent agencies as he prepares to take Stop & Frisk to a federal level.
Broadening the definition of racial profiling brings its own problems for the city’s police department, forcing the NYPD to be held accountable for the vile practice. From the AP report:
“The mayor and Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly have argued vehemently that the legislation will undermine safety by deluging the department in lawsuits and inquiries, making officers hesitant to act for fear of coming under scrutiny and undercutting policing techniques that have cut crime dramatically in recent years.”
The NYPD spent nearly $200 millon to settle legal claims in 2011, up thirty-five percent from 2010. Doubtlessly, a sizable chunk of that is due to Stop & Frisk, which speaks far more about the problems with the policy than it does of those affected by it. According to New York City Comptroller John Liu:
“Stop & Frisk has driven a deep chasm between communities and police, which makes everyone less safe. As Stop & Frisk has increased, we have also seen a marked increase in lawsuits and claims against the NYPD — bills that taxpayers are on the hook for.”
The CSA legislation would give people considerably more latitude to petition state courts for a redress of Stop & Frisk grievances, and it’s interesting to note that lawsuits brought forth will not allow plaintiffs to seek monetary compensation, only court orders to change police practices. So not only is Stop & Frisk ineffective and discriminatory, it’s also expensive, as it would seem the NYPD has a vested interest in buying people off who actually get their day in court over Stop & Frisk in order to avoid mandated reform. The fewer lawsuits they have to contend with, the easier they can airbrush away the blemishes on the face of the practice, making it all the more easy for white people to swallow.
It seems like black people can’t get a break these days: from the SCOTUS decision on the Voting Rights Act, to Zimmerman’s not guilty verdict, to Bloomberg’s zealous defense of Stop & Frisk, the rights of people of color are under siege in greater force now than they have been in some time. As our nation creeps ever closer to making Stop & Frisk a federal institution, it’s become increasingly apparent that a hard line needs to be drawn against the encroachment on the freedoms of not only people of color, but on all free peoples, by an overreaching, authoritarian police state, one that is prepared to bring the full weight of the law to bear upon the suppression of dissent. Successful implementation of the Community Safety Act would strike a major blow at the heart of Stop & Frisk, sending a clear signal not only to New York City, but to the rest of the country that the practice has no place in modern America.
In the meantime, here’s Pittsburgh hip-hop artist and activist Jasiri-X offering some solid advice to black people in New York and beyond about how successfully navigate a Stop & Frisk scenario:
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