Crime is an issue in our community and the police play an important role when it comes to crime fighting, but for our community to enjoy peace and not just an absence of violence, it must be free both of the fear of crime and fear of the police. The best policing is that which is done in true partnership with the community being served. It is respectful of the culture and history of the community. It is policing that plays to the positives of the community with the goal of building and supporting the community’s leadership and capacity. It is built on trust based on a belief in shared values. This type of policing will be well appreciated by the community and promote mutual respect and good will for the officers on local patrol as well as the entire NYPD.
This is not the type of policing that is taking place in the South Bronx, in Harlem or in of the city’s black and brown communities. The kind of policing that takes place in our communities assumes negativity or hostility on the part of the community. It is crime prevention based on instilling fear of the police and base on the assumption that all black and brown people, but especially the young men, are always ready to engage in wrong doing.
That is the message of the city’s current stop and frisk policy. Otherwise how do you explain more than 1 million stops during the last two years, mostly of young people of color, that have resulted in only 8% of those persons being arrested or even getting a summons? The problem with the NYPD’s stop and frisk policy has little to do with the courtesy and professionalism of the police officers conducting the stops, although more of each is sorely needed on the street. The problem is the logic and rationale behind the policy which promotes the targeting of black and brown people with a special focus on the presumed trouble-making young people. Today’s large scale stop and frisk program is based on racial profiling and needs to come to an end.
This week the City Council is expected to vote on two bills – the End NYPD Discriminatory Profiling Bill (Intro 1080) and the NYPD Oversight Act (Intro 1079) that are part of the Community Safety Act promoted by Communities United for Police Reform, a citywide coalition brought together because of the injustice perpetrated by the City’s stop and frisk policy. The first bill will specifically ban racial and other types of profiling by the NYPD, and give individuals the right to sue if s/he is unjustly profiled by the NYPD. The second bill will create the office of an independent Inspector General (IG) for the NYPD within the City’s Department of Investigations. The IG would be able to review NYPD operations, policies, programs and practices.
These bills deserve the support of every NYC Councilmember, but especially of every Councilmember representing a black or brown community. Contact your councilmember and urge him or her to vote in support of these two bills.
The NYPD, with the support and acquiescence of the Mayor, through its promotion and over use of stop and frisk has created a situation in our communities where fear of the police now needs as much attention as the fear of crime. Through education and organizing our communities are presently moving to create police accountability. Through education and organizing, our communities will also defeat violence and achieve true peace.
ON ANOTHER NOTE: My condolences to the family of James Gondolfini, the actor who portrayed the head of the Soprano crime family in the TV series of the same name. His death was a tragic loss at a young age. However, notwithstanding his fine acting, how his portrayal of a gangster whose values were exemplified by unbridled greed, the use of violence to achieve a goal, male sexual chauvinism and even blatant racism leads to such praises as to leave you with the impression that he had portrayed a national hero. I can’t imagine a TV series based on the life of a leader of the Bloods or the Latin Kings becoming a hit, much less the actor playing the role receiving the same kind of praise were s/he to meet a similar untimely death.