NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — A day after Mayor Michael Bloomberg defended the New York Police Department policy of street stops while speaking at the pulpit of a black church in Brooklyn, the NAACP likened the program to “massive street-level racial profiling.”
The stop-and-frisk policy that has drawn outrage “should be mended, not ended,” the mayor told worshippers at the First Baptist Church of Brownsville on Sunday.
“I don’t have to tell you in this community about the tragedy of black-on-black crime and I don’t have to tell you that most of the shooters and victims are young men,” Bloomberg said.
Instead, Bloomberg said officers are being retrained to conduct the stops with what he called “civility.”
“With every ounce of my being, I believe that our city has the responsibility to save lives and drive down crime,” he said. “And I believe just as strongly that our police department has the responsibility to treat people in every community with the respect that they deserve.”
Bloomberg said the NYPD is working with community groups so people who are stopped are not treated in the rough manner, which Bishop Gerald Seabrooks said sometimes includes slamming young men against walls.
Seabrooks, of the borough’s Rehoboth Cathedral Church, is part of the Brooklyn Clergy-NYPD Task Force whose aim is to bring together police with residents and their churches to keep pushing down crime.
“There is a lot of crime in the African-American community,” the bishop said after the Sunday morning service.
To fight it, “you can stop me 25 times a day,” he said, adding that, however, “you have to treat people with courtesy.” And if a young person is stopped, Seabrooks said, the officer must explain that the action does not mean he’s a suspect or guilty of anything.
City officials have said the program helps to bring down crime. Critics say it’s racial profiling. Most of those stopped are black and Hispanic men.
“Bloomberg’s massive street-level racial profiling program is a civil and human rights catastrophe that both hurts our children and makes our communities less safe,” the NAACP said in a statement released Monday. “Every year, hundreds of thousands of innocent New Yorkers and visitors to the city are needlessly targeted for physical searches and public humiliation because of their skin color.”
“The truth of the matter is right now, it’s the wild west out there. Young people of color are being stopped and frisked, some five and 10 times a year. That is not how we do smart policing,” said Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer.
Police Commissioner Ray Kelly accompanied the mayor Sunday and sat in a front pew of the Brownsville church, but did not speak.
Bloomberg told the congregation that city’s efforts at crime reduction, including the stop-and-frisk program, have resulted in the lowest number of murders since record keeping began in 1966. In 1990, murders hit an all-time high of 2,245. In 2011, there were 515.
At one point in his speech, the mayor drew gasps from the congregation when he told them that of 10 murder victims in the first week of June, the victims were all black or Hispanic young men.
He read their names and ages.
“Sadly, 96 percent of shooting suspects are black and Hispanic,” Bloomberg said.
However, the mayor acknowledged there’s room for improvement in police behavior.
In May, Kelly said the NYPD was refining the program, establishing an early warning system to identify officers who have received complaints and holding precinct commanders accountable. Kelly also said there would be a new training course detailing how to conduct lawful stops.
“It may translate into fewer stops,” Kelly said.
However, the New York Civil Liberties Union, which is suing the NYPD over the policy, dismissed the changes as a desperate public relations move without real reform.
Meanwhile, the NYCLU has created a new stop-and-frisk Android app that lets users record and report if they of someone else is stopped by police.
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