New York's Mayor Bloomberg and Police Chief Ray Kelly held a press conference to register their dismay at the court decision declaring the city's controversial "stop and frisk" program to be unconstitutional. As is to be expected, the decision will be challenged and, as is also to be expected, the Mayor and police chief wasted little time deploying their talking points in its defense. (Note on the embed: Video quality is terrible but this is only version of the entire press conference. Both the Mayor's Youtube account and NYC.gov website contain only a 12-minute, heavily-edited video of the press conference, one that ONLY shows the prepared statements and removes all of the Mayor's annoyed "interaction" with the press.)
went long on crime reduction statistics (something he says the presiding judge [Shira Scheindlin] ignored) claiming the 8,000 guns seized over the past decade have "saved countless lives of blacks and Hispanics." He also claimed the stop and frisk program (or "stop, question and frisk," as he and Kelly refer to it) has made New York City the "poster child everyone wants to follow."
I have no doubt that there are many law enforcement agencies who view the stop and frisk program as desirable, but this says a lot more about law enforcement's mindset than it does about the program itself. Law enforcement agencies tend to believe Americans have too many rights, as is evidenced by years of rights abuse. Any program that curtails rights and gives officers free rein to stop and frisk citizens would largely believed to be a "good thing."
Kelly's defense of the program
wasn't much different. His prepared remarks cited crime statistics and claimed the program was proactive in preventing criminal behavior, again stressing the 8,000 guns taken off the street over the past decade. Bizarrely, Kelly chose to illustrate the importance of the stop and frisk program by relating an anecdote having nothing
to do with stop and frisk.
On Saturday a man threw a duffle bag into the trunk of a double-parked car in Washington Heights. When officers approached the man, he ran. That's suspicious behavior. They found $750,000 worth of heroin in the trunk. They arrested the suspects and spared the untold misery that three-quarters of a million dollars worth of drug addiction can cause to families who can least afford it.
Yes, running from the cops is often suspicious behavior, but the problems with stop and frisk is that it's deployed without any form of reasonable suspicion to back up the impromptu pat downs and searches. A big drug bust resulting from observed suspicious behavior isn't nearly the same thing as grabbing a few random minorities and pressing them up against the nearest wall for no apparent reason.
While Kelly's response was a bit more measured, Bloomberg made it clear that he wasn't interested in implementing some of the recommendations the judge made in her decision -- including additional oversight. Bloomberg (and Kelly) have been against third-party monitoring
since day one, with the mayor notably arguing that his prized "army"
would be less efficient with independent oversight because it introduces "confusion into the command structure."
Bloomberg also cited Scott Greenfield's First Rule of Policing
* when criticizing the additional oversight, including the city council's recent bill to appoint an Inspector General over the NYPD.
*Make it home for dinner
So, now we'll have another layer of monitors... You're a police officer. You have to know what orders to follow. If somebody pulls a gun and you WANT TO GET HOME, you don't have time to say, "Well, now wait a second, the commissioner said one thing, the monitor said another and the IG said another." By that time, you're dead.
In Bloomberg's world, police are unnecessarily constrained by rules and regulations that prevent them from placing self-preservation above all other considerations. It should be noted that many unarmed citizens have been shot for precisely this Rule, like the recent shooting death
of an unarmed teen by a police officer who reassured
the homeowners' whose yard he cut through in pursuit that the teen was not a threat. The teen continued to be "no threat" until the door of the shed he was hiding in flew open and the First Rule of Policing
Bloomberg went on with his answer/diatribe, directing anger at the assembled press, implicating them in this rhetorical officer's death.
And I'd like to see you go to the funeral and explain to the family why their son or husband or father is not coming home that night.
Bloomberg also addressed the court's order that officers wear body cameras at all times. According to Bloomberg, the idea is unworkable. He vividly imagined the criticism that would fly once these were implemented.
A camera on the lapel or hat of a police officer... He didn't turn the right way. My god, he DELIBERATELY did it. It's a solution that's not a solution...
There is no doubt always-on cameras can be abused by the officers wearing them. Many departments fight this sort of thing because it creates a layer of accountability, something few police departments welcome. If law enforcement agencies had worked harder over the years to maintain a solid reputation for trustworthiness and rooting out abusive officers from within their own ranks, they wouldn't be in the position of having mandatory cameras deployed.
Bloomberg's attitude throughout the press conference varied between confrontational and condescending -- a nanny-statist annoyed that his subjects were restless.
A reporter, who questioned his statement that stop and frisk was only opposed by a "handful" of critics and activists by pointing out that he'd come across "hundreds, if not thousands" of critics, received this reply.
Some of these people come from a culture where police are the enemy. Here, police are friends.
What? The American culture has its fair share of people who believe police are the enemy, or at the very least have a long way to go to be considered "friends." Bloomberg's been in power so long he's forgotten (if he ever knew) that an imbalance of power tends to make those with less
much more distrustful of those with more
. Cops have a lot of power and under Bloomberg this imbalance has only increased.
Bloomberg went even further with this train of thought, first insulting the public and continuing on to disparage the press (again.)
The public are not experts on policing... But if you want to find someone to put on your TV show that says they don't like this, you can find them.
Bloomberg cut loose with more condescension when fielding a question from Russia Television International about the administration's fervent defense of the unpopular (and unconstitutional program).
We, unlike many countries, want to keep all of our citizens safe, and keep the crime rate down and make sure that they get home and go to court and protect themselves -- unlike other countries in the world.
And again, when asked if the appeals process would allow stop and frisk to continue until Bloomberg is out of office, his response this time was coupled with his usual scare tactics.
Boy, I hope so. I wouldn't want to be responsible for a lot of people dying.
Yes. Every homicide investigation starts with the mayor being questioned about his involvement.
All in all, the mayor appeared to be completely irritated that his pet program had been questioned (and overruled) by a court decision. In contrast, Chief Kelly's responses were handled much more gracefully. He didn't address many questions (and those he did were swiftly taken over by Mayor
Bloomberg) but those he did he handled well, without resorting to scare tactics, condescension or irritability.
For instance, his response to the appointment of independent oversight was simply to state that the appointee would find what he sees every day: good cops doing a good job. The rest he handled by stating the NYPD deploys a "wide variety" of tactics in areas of high crime or by deferring to the city's legal representative.
It will be some time before the court-ordered changes appear, if they do at all. As stated above, the city will be challenging the ruling and Bloomberg is still hard at work attempting to veto the two bills aimed at stop and frisk that recently passed the city council.
New Yorkers can at least be happy Daddy Bloomberg is on his way out, although the crop of replacement candidates doesn't seem all that promising. Americans, on the other hand, have to be concerned that the man who headed up the stop and frisk program could soon be heading
the Department of Homeland Security, a position that will allow dubious tactics to be deployed at a national level.
In any event, it's obvious the court's decisions has pissed off Bloomberg and his "private army" and that can't be a bad thing.