The closer we come to the end of Mayor Bloomberg’s term, the clearer it becomes that he’s more than comfortable with leaving a slew of issues for his successor to deal with. Bloomberg remains unwavering in his support of Stop and Frisk, even accusing the media outlets reporting on its opposition of being racist in their own right. The next mayor of New York is going to have to deal with the policy’s fallout and choose whether or not to finally acknowledge the toll it takes on Black and Latino communities throughout the city.
Hearing Vassell talk about how he expects to be stopped and questioned by the police is reminiscent of the ways in which Jim Crow operated in the Deep South as a legally permissible form of social control. But, according to Rosa Squillacote, who works as a policy advocate at the Police Reform Organizing Project in New York City, what’s been especially noteworthy in the trial so far is the testimony by officers who are opposed to the practice but are pressured into making a high number of stops. “Police officers are testifying that this is not helping them do their jobs,” Squillacote says. “It’s hurting their relationship with community members.”
During the first week of Floyd v. The City of New York, NYPD officer Adhyl Polanco, an eight-year veteran of the force who works in the Bronx, testified that he was told to make one arrest and write 20 tickets each month. “They said, ‘You do it, or you are going to become a Pizza Hut deliveryman,” Polanco said. “I started recording it because I could not believe what I was hearing.”
Black and Latino communities have long been suspicious of police, but the danger of the NYPD’s program is that it further engrains the idea that police officers are an occupying force instead of public servants who protect citizens.
“Four days after Alphonza Bryant’s murder went unreported by the Times, the paper published another editorial attacking stop-question-and-frisk,” Bloomberg said. “They called it ‘a wildly loathed practice’ even though a growing number of mothers and fathers who have had their children murdered with guns have been speaking out in support of stop-question-and-frisk.
“But let me tell you what I loathe. 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. I loathe that parents have to bury their children and children have to bury their parents because there are too many guns on the streets. I loathe that police Detective Peter Figoski’s four daughters will never see their father again.
“I loathe that the Detectives James Nemorin and Rodney Andrews were executed while trying to take guns off our streets. I loathe that illegal guns threaten our communities every day, especially black and Latino communities because politicians don’t have the courage to stand up for measures that can save lives.
“Do you think if a white 17-year-old prep student from Manhattan was murdered, theTimes would have ignored it? I think not.”
Bloomberg added that other advocacy groups vehemently opposed to stop-and-frisk also didn’t respond to the murder. “I believe that the life of every 17-year-old and every child and every adult is precious,” Bloomberg said. “But the fact of the matter is, when police stop and ask a 17-year-old a question based on a reasonable suspicion of a crime, there is outrage, yet when a 17-year-old is standing on the street corner near his home at 8:15 in the evening and gets shot and killed there is silence.”
The Times responded by calling Bloomberg’s criticism “absurd.”
—“Bloomberg Unleashes a Tirade Against Stop-and-Frisk Critics and NYC Media,” by Nicole Brode and Ben Fractenberg, April 30, 2013.
Francisco Zapata keeps a copy of the Constitution on his cellphone. So when the police stopped, frisked and charged him with misdemeanor marijuana possession, he wanted what that cellphone document promised.
“I was under the assumption,” he said, “that if I kept going back to court, eventually I would get my day in court.”
But this was the Bronx.
Court delays of as long as five years in felony cases have pushed the Bronx criminal courts into the bottom ranks of courts nationally, reaching what even the judges call crisis levels.
But that backlog has a less-noted companion. The courts are so dysfunctional that those accused of minor offenses — misdemeanors like trespassing or driving with a suspended license — have all but lost the fundamental guarantee of the American legal system: the right to a trial.
The case of Mr. Zapata would usually be overlooked in the flood of 50,000 Bronx misdemeanor filings a year. But he was part of a special legal-defense effort led by the Bronx Defenders, which provides legal representation to poor Bronx residents charged with crimes. That effort tested the borough’s courts by trying to bring 54 misdemeanor marijuana possession cases to trial for clients who had been arrested as part of New York City’s controversial stop-and-frisk program and wanted to fight the charges.
– “In Misdemeanor Cases, Long Waits for Elusive Trials,” by William Glaberson, April 30, 2013
Here’s what he [Police Commissioner Ray Kelly] said:
About 70 percent to 75 percent of the people described as committing violent crimes — assault, robbery, shootings, grand larceny — are described as being African American.
The percentage of people who are stopped is 53 percent African-American. So really, African-Americans are being under-stopped in relation to the percentage of people being described as being the perpetrators of violent crime. The stark reality is that a crime happens in communities of color.”
The percentage of African-Americans stopped was actually 55 in 2012, according to the New York Civil Liberties Union, using the N.Y.P.D.’s own data. The percentage of Latinos was 32, and the percentage of whites was 10.
– “What Ray Kelly Said About Stop-and-Frisk,” by Lawrence Downes, May 3, 2013