March 19, 2012
By Melissa Mark-Viverito, Member New York City Council
You may have heard already, but NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly appeared before the City Council and things got a bit heated. The Commissioner defended the NYPD’s Stop and Frisk policies, without exception, and further accused myself and others of not having any solutions to gun violence in our communities. I have to admit that I am frustrated by the Commissioner’s stance.
As you know, months ago, our community released the Youth Violence Task Force Report, which provided ten key recommendations for stemming the tide of violence that has affected El Barrio/East Harlem. This report was created by the community’s youth, many of whom were desperate to take ownership of an issue that impacts their life chances in every way. We are already in the midst of implementing these strategies, which include implementing the “Violence Interrupters” model in our neighborhood.
I would note that this report received little media coverage. Perhaps that is why the Commissioner knew nothing about the efforts of these youth. I could forgive him for that, but his disposition reveals a deeper problem: Not only does he consider the feelings of the minority community broadly irrelevant to conducting good police work, but he also labors under the delusion that only the NYPD is taking ownership of the gun violence issue. Communities of color and their elected officials have had little to nothing productive to say, according to this public servant.
And let’s not forget the record on Stop and Frisk. According to the New York Civil Liberties Union, the NYPD stopped a record 684,000 people in 2011. 12 percent of those resulted in an arrest or summons. That means that over 603,000 people were stopped and “questioned” despite having committed no crime whatsoever! Among the innocents, 53 percent were identified as black and 34 percent were Latino. Only 9 percent were white. Is this really what we’re calling an effective policy?
I’d add that a recent Quinnipiac poll explained that the African-American and Latino communities were broadly opposed to these policies. I quoted this poll’s findings to the Commissioner to demonstrate that black and brown communities know that, contrary to Commissioner Kelly’s claims, they are not served by Stop and Frisk. When the police are justified only 1 in 10 times, one can only infer that preconceptions about black and brown urban communities are the criteria used for executing this “effective” strategy.
Commissioner Kelly was deaf to evidence pointing in the opposite direction of his conclusions. So what if the communities he claims to be protecting feel alienated by his policies, Commissioner Kelly and the NYPD claim to know best.
This is awful considering that, every day, our communities are doing their very best to mold a better tomorrow. That is what the Youth Violence Task Force is all about; that is what Participatory Budgeting is about. We, as a community, understand better than anyone that our communities are under tremendous strain. AND WE HAVE ANSWERS.
If the Commissioner and others would only take the time to hear us, work with us, and most importantly open their minds to alternatives, I am confident that we could together build a better tomorrow for all New Yorkers. As it stands now, the NYPD is to policies like Stop and Frisk that have a limited effect while leaving permanent scars on those unfortunate enough to be shoved up against a wall or thrown against the ground on the 1 in 10 chance that they might have done something wrong.