Community Safety Act And The NYPD: Bloomberg's "The Blacks Are Coming!" Tactic Backfires

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Councilman Jumaane Williams

[Speaking Truth To Power]

This week the New York City Council passed landmark legislation to tackle the massive abuses caused by the New York Police Department's profiling policy known as Stop-and-Frisk: under the regime Police have arbitrarily stopped and searched mostly Black and Latino males and nine out of 10 times found nothing wrong.

About 700,000 people were stopped last year.

On Monday, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Commissioner Ray Kelly engaged in fear-mongering claiming the bill’s measures might unleash a crime wave of mass murder and mayhem.

It’s time we debunk this utter idiotic slur advanced by people like Mayor Bloomberg and Commissioner Kelly, which symbolizes crime as a problem that is particularly peculiar to Black and Latino communities. Another way to put it is: "The Blacks are coming! The Blacks are coming!"

Well it didn't work this time.

On Thursday, the City Council, by a veto proof majority, voted to enact the Community Safety Act which basically combines two bills to address issues raised by the NYPD’S controversial Stop-and-Frisk policy.

The first measure would establish an Inspector General to oversee the NYPD—a practice which is routine in many police departments across the country.

The second would allow those who feel they were the victims of racial profiling to file lawsuits against the NYPD. The bills were sponsored by Brooklyn Councilman Jumaane Williams and Councilman Brad Lander, also of Brooklyn.

Many New Yorkers of color welcomed these actions as instruments to create accountability for the actions the NYPD takes in minority communities. However, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Police Commissioner voiced their displeasure before the historic vote.

Mayor Bloomberg claimed implementation of the bills would place the police and public in "real serious danger and could reverse the striking, dramatic and wonderful reduction in crime that this city has experienced." The mayor also said "The NYPD would be unable to take some of the most basic crime-prevention measures anyone would expect our police to take," and that "every tort lawyer is going to buy a new house and a new car right away." An even more stunning statement was made by NYPD Commissioner Kelly: “Take heart, al Qaeda wannabes, because the City Council has found a way to undermine our partners."

This comment is extremely insulting, but, instructive. Mr. Kelly will surely get away with saying this because he is articulating how many are taught to view Blacks and Latinos in this country: as nothing more than domestic terrorists and menaces to American society. But we’ll return to Commissioner Kelly in a moment, after we examine Mayor Bloomberg’s remarks.

The good mayor tells us these modifications could reverse crime in New York City. But as Councilman Williams said “Any time you start to discuss better policing, police reform, they say the sky is going to fall, the whole city is going to be in a rampage, all laws will be in default, and everybody will run amok.” Councilman Williams is right. Mayor Bloomberg has presented the people of New York City with the false premise that if the NYPD doesn’t engage in routine Fourth Amendment violations of Blacks and Latinos this means the city can’t be kept safe from crime.

This notion is not only nonsense, but, plays into the prejudiced perception many Whites have—and unfortunately, some Blacks as well—that the face of crime is to be personified by the Black male. The truth of the matter is this false impression is not borne out by any thorough analysis of the facts.

However, this deceitful belief is inculcated by ubiquitous news and press portrayals of Blacks as the poster children of criminality—and because of the dysfunctionality in our communities, created by economic bigotry and institutional racism, many accept this warped view of African-Americans and Latinos. Oftentimes, the criminal labeling perpetrated upon people of color is nothing more than a projection of White America’s historic sins against our people.

Now, some people will talk about the violence occurring in communities of color. This scourge is not to be dismissed. However, economic deprivation is the driving force behind the crime in our communities—not this despicable insinuation that Black people are “genetically predisposed,” which is nothing more than racist 21st Century pseudo-science. Unfortunately, the mayor and his minions never seriously discussed the economic reasons that are the root of the crime problem in Black and Brown communities. But while they promote the false notion that crime in New York City is largely a Black\Brown problem, wanton criminality on Wall Street continues unabated.

Mayor Bloomberg claims an Inspector General will hamper the NYPD. This claim is another red herring since law enforcement agencies nationwide have inspectors general. It’s clear the real issue here is fear of accountability— apparently, democratic principles of good governance should only be extended to some. There are many who don’t feel they should be held accountable for their actions in communities of color—regardless, of how egregious that conduct is. And when the mayor talks about lawyers getting rich, isn’t this an admission he knows the Fourth Amendment rights of Blacks and Latinos are being violated with impunity?

During the Floyd v. New York City trial Senator Eric Adams a former police officer testified Commissioner Kelly during a meeting at, then, Governor David Paterson's office, in 2010, said, in reference to Black male teenagers that "he targeted or focused on that group because he wanted to instill fear in them that any time they leave their homes they could be targeted by police."

According to Senator Adams the commissioner justified this by saying "How else are we going to get rid of guns?"

Mr. Kelly denied those remarks. But given his comparisons of Black/Brown people to Al-Qaeda, Mr. Kelly is the one who looks like a liar.

How dare the commissioner make such a slanderous comment --blanket reference to people as terrorists-- when he knows there are officers under his command who are violating people in the public in the most despicably ways.

It’s bad enough the NYPD is targeting minorities for harassment but what about the other ungodly conduct being perpetrated by members of the NYPD?

This past April, the City of New York, reportedly, tried to force Staten Island resident Vincent Delgrosso to agree to a $35,000 settlement to silence his claims NYPD officers sodomized him while arresting him for drugs, in 2011. Apparently, the City is willing to pay him for a sodomy they say never happened. Mr. Delgrosso’s story sounds eerily similar to that of Michael Mineo who said he was sodomized with a baton by Officer Richard Kern—on a Brooklyn train platform on October, 15, 2008. Even though Transit Police Officer Kevin Maloney testified in Mineo’s favor, Kern was acquitted. Mendaciously, some claimed Mineo sodomized himself.

Besides these stories, there are also those of Lydia Cuomo and Ralph Johnson. On August, 27, 2004, Mr. Johnson said he was sodomized with a retractable baton—in his Bronx home—by a NYPD officer after a dispute with his girlfriend. And school teacher Lydia Cuomo was sodomized by Officer Michael Pena in August, 2011 in the Bronx as she was going to school.

These stories evoke memories of Abner Louima, who was brutalized and sodomized inside a Brooklyn precinct in 1997. Recall that shortly after officer Justin Volpe's sodomy attack on Louima his lawyer Marvyn M. Kornberg argued that the Haitian immigrant had suffered the injuries from rough anal sex.

Ironically, legendary groundbreaking reporter Earl Caldwell—now a professor at Hampton University and host of the Caldwell Chronicles on Radio WBAI—lost his job with The Daily News a few years before the Louima incident when he reported to his editors the story of six cabdrivers who maintained they were sodomized by a NYPD officer.

The fact is the NYPD needs to be policed to stop these abuses that have become far too common. This legislation is a start. And, hopefully, the next mayor does us a favor by giving Mr. Ray Kelly walking papers. New York City deserves police who respects the rights of all New Yorkers.


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