The road to hell is paved with good intentions-and, apparently, lined with bullet casings.
New York City saw a rash in shootings this past weekend that left four dead and 19 injured. Through Sunday, June 29, approximately 611 people were shot in the five boroughs year-todate, a 10 percent increase from the same period last year.
Could it be that the diminished NYPD’s stop-and-frisk policy-condemned as discriminatory by the courts and liberal lawmakers-has something to do with this shooting spike?
The NYPD is presently examining data to determine what kind of impact, if any, stop-and-frisk had on overall crime. Police Commissioner Bill Bratton recently stated that the tactic’s use is “down dramatically,” but the department’s “arrests number [sic] are staying as they have been, so it’s a bit of a contradiction.”
There can be no doubt, however, that stop-and-frisk was an effective, if not flawed, crime deterrent, namely in stopping the flow of illegal guns on city streets. It was reported that some gun runners, in conversations recorded by authorities, told each other to avoid city streets for fear of being caught with illegal weapons.
But like any other police tactic, there are those who charged that some officers misused or outright abused the stop-and-frisk policy to target people of color. The outrage of such malpractice of law led the city to pass the Community Safety Act, legislation aimed at controlling the NYPD and barring “bias-based profiling.”
This also led to Floyd v. The City of New York and a ruling by federal Judge Shira Scheindlin ordering a federal monitor to oversee the NYPD’s reform of the stop-and-frisk policy. Mayor Michael Bloomberg fought the decision in his last year in office, but Mayor Bill de Blasio dropped the city’s appeal in his first year at City Hall.
Now, with the Police Department trying to retool the policy, we see a rise in gun violence on our streets. Coincidence?
Well, the bad guys read the papers, too. They pay attention to the TV news. They know the NYPD is under greater scrutiny over stop-and-frisk, and they know police officers will likely be more hesitant to stop anyone out of fear of reprimand and litigation. Certainly, with the number of stops down, more armed criminals seem to be slipping through the cracks-and pulling the trigger-on city streets.
Perhaps the tide of public opinion on stop-and-frisk is turning a bit. At the June 83rd Precinct Community Council meeting, for example, some residents insisted that police should have stopped and frisked more people at the scene of a recent Bushwick shooting.
But then there’s City Council Member Jumaane Williams, one of the biggest critics of stop-and-frisk. He insists that “even if it did work, we as a society have said that the Constitution means something, and that we do not want to live in a police state,” as he told the New York Daily News.
No one wants a police state, but no one wants to live in fear of being gunned down on city streets, as we did more than 20 years ago. No one, however, should conclude that the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk policy is without purpose or value. It needs reform, but it doesn’t need to be sent to the policy graveyard.
As one resident said at the 83rd Precinct Council meeting, “Let the cop do his job … If you’ve got nothing to hide, then don’t worry about it.”