Bob Friedrich’s July 13 column “Two Council bills will hinder the effectiveness of NYPD” is inaccurate. Friedrich misrepresents the bills that comprise the Community Safety Act (Intros 1079 and 1080), but whether out of ignorance or an attempt to mislead readers, we do not know.
He is wrong that Intro 1080 would prevent police from using race, gender, age or other similar information in suspect descriptions. The language he cites for prohibited profiling, using race or other categories as “the determinative factor in initiating law enforcement action” is already the law, sponsored in 2004 by City Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria) and signed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg. It would not change under Intro 1080.
Friedrich alleges the bill would be “another payday for enterprising attorneys,” but he omits the fact that plaintiffs would not be allowed to seek monetary damages under the bill, rendering his argument nonsense. We suspect he knew this.
His column is racially divisive as well, arguing that supporters have “chosen to align” themselves with Councilman Charles Barron (D-Brooklyn). We are proud of the broad support behind the legislation, but Barron is not even one of Intro 1080’s six prime cosponsors.
In fact, the bill passed with the votes of 34 Council members, a diverse coalition that included many white members and strong supporters of the NYPD, including many from Queens.
We have enormous respect for the work of the NYPD, are committed to safe neighborhoods and would never propose a bill that jeopardized public safety.
But we believe that bias-based profiling is a problem, as witnessed by the massive increase in stop-and-frisks in recent years. Racial profiling would be wrong even if it worked, but there is just no evidence that it does. In 2002, with 97,296 stops — which are meant to get guns off the streets — there were 1,892 shooting victims. In 2011, with a whopping 685,724 stops, there were 1,821. Fewer than 0.1 percent of stops find a gun.
This is not just about targeting enforcement to high-crime neighborhoods. For example, in the 107th Precinct in Queens, more than 4,000 people were stopped in 2012. Although the community is only 29.6 percent African American or Latino, they were 84.5 percent of the stops. And nearly 90 percent were innocent and not charged with a minor violation.
From our work with NYPD precinct commanders, we know they can continue to reduce crime — and conduct appropriate stop-and-frisks — without bias-based profiling. We are grateful to the diverse coalition of Council members and New Yorkers standing strong for a city that works hard to keep all its residents safe and treat them with dignity.