2012-07-19 / View From the Middle

View From The Middle

The Stop & Frisk Tactic: Got Something Better?
By Charles Rogers

What would you rather have — stop and frisk, or more injured three-year-olds and dead bodies?

That’s not really an absurd question nowadays, although the stop and frisk tactic is so controversial that it’s nearly a 50-50 thing, with half the population saying to cops, “Go to it! Do what you have to do, as long as I’m safe!” and the other half yelling that it’s racial profiling at its worst and “My civil liberties are being violated!”

It’s certainly a problem — one that requires common sense without people losing their heads and pontificating as if the solution is easy. Cool heads are what are needed; something that lately seems to be lacking. Right now, the only cool head guiding us in this period of what appears to be a burgeoning crime wave is — we have to admit it — Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly.

Yes. Admit it! Now before political pundits, community activists and, yes, political officials get irked and red-faced and start complaining that they are being denigrated, it must be stated that community leaders are indeed concerned and trying to surmount the problems of crime in their own neighborhoods, obviously not by the same means that Commissioner Kelly is using. As a matter of fact, they — some of them — are trying their damnedest not only to circumvent the stop and frisk efforts in the communities, but to cancel it out completely, blasting Kelly and the NYPD at every turn with the cry that what his troops are doing is contrary to every dictum of civil liberties. I repeat: What would they rather have — stop and frisk, or more violence?

Last week, the police commissioner lambasted the elected officials and community leaders in areas with minority populations for not speaking out about the violence within their own neighborhoods. Of course, those legislators and activists countered his words, coming down on him with strong rhetoric in their condemnation of the NYPD’s tactics. Our own Councilman Jumaane Williams stated in a press release to the Canarsie Courier that he was “outraged” and asked, “Where was Commissioner Kelly this weekend when I and others were in the streets with families who had lost their children?” and Assemblyman and soon-to-be-Congressman Hakeem Jeffries blasted Kelly for “blaming others who do not have direct responsibility for the safety of our city.” They, along with others, stated Kelly said black elected officials “don’t care” about the safety of their community.

Well, he said nothing of the sort, of course — nor would he.

With all due respect, both legislators have specific points, however misdirected. We must be compassionate, of course, and Williams’ point of joining with his grieving constituents is the basis for what we would hope to be a community that is sympathetic — and empathetic — to their neighbors. We must realize that we are all brothers and sisters and this is what we, as civilized people, must do! If it means we should march in sympathy, then Mr. Williams is absolutely correct.

As compassionate as it is — and as sad as it is, however — it is nowhere near a solution.

Williams and others have been complaining from the start that the stop and frisk program seems to be aimed at the minority communities. Seems to be? Unfortunately, one has to go back to the old expression supposedly coined by the notorious bank robber Willie Sutton in the 1930s. After one of the many times he was arrested, he was asked why he always robbed just banks. His answer: “Because that’s where the money is!”

The comparison is obvious: Why do the police target certain neighborhoods for their frisk program? Because that’s where the crime is. We don’t have to cite the statistics at this point. They’ve been broadcast and printed multiple times within the past crime-ridden weeks since the 4th of July. We do have to say that the shootings; the gun play; the murders; the injuries of children; the lack of responsibility and the lack of, yes, parenting is getting too far out of hand.

Last weekend, Rev. Al Sharpton — who seems to be the only other leader (besides Kelly) to finally speak up with a cool head — suggested there be a “summit,” of sorts, where discussions among community leaders from all those crime-ridden neighborhoods and law enforcement authorities might come to some positive conclusion that could prevent our city from becoming as steeped in street warfare as it was 20 and 30 years ago.

Would a summit work? Maybe. Kelly, along with Mayor Bloomberg, has been saying all along, “If you have a better plan than ‘stop and frisk’ let’s hear it.” Perhaps it will take a summit to bring about a better plan.

Please hurry, though. People are dying.

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