Editorial: Stop and Think

Wednesday morning marked the start of a hearing before the Public Safety Committee of the New York City Council focusing on bills that address the city’s controversial stop and frisk practices. Testimony was introduced by a group of about 12 individuals, centering on four bills that target police reform.

The bills which have been collectively dubbed as the Community Safety Act seek to make the following provisions with regard to stop and frisk tactics:

First, police officers would be mandated to identify themselves, provide their names and ranks and give an explanation for having made the stop in the first place.

Second, the bills would seek to expand the existing ban on racial profiling.

Third, is the proposed requirement of police to make individuals aware of their right to refuse to be searched and to get proof of their consent, if they agree to be searched. This would apply to all cases in which there were no other legal basis to search an individual.

The fourth bill, the only one not directly concerned with stop and frisk, calls for the establishment of an overseeing body in the form of an Office of the Inspector General. A position designed to monitor the Police Department.

We see stop and frisk as a necessary and essential component of the New York City Police Department. We see these bills as means to put a further stranglehold on police—an even tighter one than exists presently.

It doesn’t require a membership to Mensa to realize that in limiting the power of our police department, we are, in effect imposing limitations on our personal safety.

The stipulations called for in all of these bills, put unrealistic demands on police and could never function successfully within the confines of everyday life on the streets of New York City.

What else will we expect the police to do when stopping an individual they believe presents potential danger to others? Should we require them to name the 50 states in alphabetical order or perhaps they should name every US President? Doesn’t that sound ridiculous to you?

As ridiculous as it sounds to us to have police officers be required to operate under a set of rules that make it virtually impossible for them to do their jobs effectively. At the end of the day, when we tie their hands, we are risking our lives and the lives of innocent people all over this city.

We understand that statistics show that a majority of stop and frisk stops do not yield evidence of wrongdoing on the part of the individual stopped. We’ve listened intently to critics that claim police repeatedly target young men of black and Hispanic descent.

What about the people that are stopped by police and found to be in possession of a weapon? What about those individuals, who if not stopped, may have slipped through the cracks long enough to perpetrate harm? We wonder if one hundred people would mind being stopped if number 99 in that group were someone who might have gone on to slaughter an innocent victim?

We support police claims that the stop and frisk policy is directly responsible for a decrease in crime and represents a definitive procedure to help get illegal guns off the streets. And encourage our elected officials to bring that message back to those council members who support these bills.

It is our hope that responsible members of the City Council would seek to dispense with the notion of any measures that seek to weaken the tools that can be used by the police in order to keep us safe. The fact that certain members of the council seek to beat the race drum is something that needs be brought under control by the votes of their more level-headed colleagues.

Members of the city council, including Speaker Quinn need to stop shying away from assuming a public position on this issue. This is not a topic that should influenced by political agenda. It is an issue that should be decided on by only one set of facts—those that prove stop and frisk is an effective way to combat crime. We support Mayor Bloomberg’s position that the institution of the newly proposed bills would indeed be a direct route to bringing crime back to New York City.

These bills represent nothing more than an emotionally charged plot to further jeopardize the safety of law abiding New Yorkers.

For the sake of our safety, it’s a plot we should demand be set aside.


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