On Sunday New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg went to a black church in one of the city’s most heavily policed neighborhoods to let them know ‘Stop-and-Frisk’ isn’t going anywhere. Just after citing Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech the Mayor told the congregation at the First Baptist Church of Brownsville that ‘stop-and-frisk’ should be “mended, not ended.”
The New York Times reports Bloomberg opened up his speech with an allusion to Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech and suggested that gun violence remained a barrier to full racial equality.
Later, he said of the frisk policy, “to borrow a phrase from President Clinton, I believe the practice needs to be mended, not ended” — a reference to a phrase that Mr. Clinton used in a very different context, in a 1995 speech defending affirmative action programs.
“We are not going to walk away from a strategy that we know saves lives,” Bloomberg said on Sunday, the NY Times reports. “At the same time, we owe it to New Yorkers to ensure that stops are properly conducted and carried out in a respectful way.”
Coming a week before a planned march to protest the policy, and just days after a group of minority lawmakers visited the Justice Department in Washington to call for an investigation of it, the speech was clearly an effort to address some of the criticism. The church where the mayor spoke, the First Baptist Full Gospel Church of Brownsville, is in a neighborhood where both the level of crime and the number of street stops are among the highest in the city.
In the city as a whole, the police stopped people and questioned them 684,330 times last year, a 600 percent increase from Mr. Bloomberg’s first year in office. Eighty-seven percent of those stopped were black or Latino, and the vast majority were young men, which has led some minority leaders to denounce the policy as a form of racial profiling.
Mr. Bloomberg said Sunday that racial profiling was banned by the Police Department, and that “we will not tolerate it.” He added, however, that the city would not “deny reality” in order to stop different groups according to their relative proportions in the population. (He used the examples of men versus women and young versus old people, rather than white versus black or Hispanic.)
Not everyone believes Bloomberg’s statements though.
“The NYPD’s own data undermine many of the Bloomberg administration’s justifications for the stop-and-frisk program,” New York Civil Liberties Union Executive Director Donna Lieberman said in a statement. “Contrary to the mayor and police commissioner’s assertions, the massive spike in the number of stops has done little to remove firearms from the streets. Instead, it has violated the constitutional rights of millions of people and corroded the ability of communities of fathers and sons from communities of color to trust and respect the police.”
“Stop-and-frisk is the most massive local racial profiling program in the country,” said NAACP President and CEO Benjamin Todd Jealous.
Jealous along with 1199 SEIU President George Gresham and Rev. Al Sharpton of the National Action network are organizing a “Silent March to End Stop-and-Frisk” scheduled to take place on Sunday.
This article was originally published by Colorlines.