After more of Michael Bloomberg’s remarks discussing his longtime support of stop and frisk finally came to light, some on the right have defended both Bloomberg and the practice itself without question. It’s odd to me, because some of these same conservatives rightfully and passionately condemned red flag laws, which, in my non-lawyerly opinion, seem like an offshoot of the logic that drives stop and frisk.
Ray Kelly, who was NYPD Commissioner at the time when debate of stop and frisk was the loudest, said at the time:
“It is a practice that is essential to policing. Police use it throughout America. As a matter of fact, you can’t police without doing it.”
“The notion anyone stopped has done absolutely nothing wrong is not really the case,” Kelly responded, insisting that police “need reasonable suspicion to stop someone and question them.” He also countered accusations that the NYPD has “quotas” regarding stops, instead referring to the numbers officers are asked to hit as “productivity goals, like in any other business.”
According to NYPD data compiled by the NYCLU (oh I know, but discounting the messenger on this particular issue doesn’t change the hard data they pulled from NYPD) 66% of reported stops led to frisks of which 93% reported no weapon found.
Additionally, I agree with Jacob Sullum here:
As the number of stop-and-frisk encounters initiated by the NYPD grew from about 100,000 in Michael Bloomberg’s first year as mayor to almost 700,000 in 2011, the share of stops yielding guns fell from 0.38 percent to 0.033 percent. Bloomberg says that trend demonstrates that program is working, because “the whole idea…is not to catch people with guns; it’s to prevent people from carrying guns.”
If so, the policy is plainly inconsistent with the Supreme Court’s Fourth Amendment rulings, which do not allow random searches aimed at deterring crime. It is telling that Bloomberg, confronted by the argument that his beloved stop-and-frisk policy is unconstitutional, responds by insisting that it works. Rights are not contingent on the effectiveness of the police tactics that violate them.
Red flag policy is predicated upon preventing someone from doing something with a firearm and acting upon this by bypassing due process for quicker action — when a multitude of other options are available, options that do not endanger other constitutional rights.
I also take issue with the spin that criticizing stop and frisk is criticism of law enforcement. The anti-gun left patterns their red flag approach the same: If you oppose red flags you are criticizing law enforcement. The purpose of these absurd narratives is to diminish the credibility of your argument by intimating that you are someone who is hostile towards law enforcement due to disagreement on this issue. Here’s a thought: law enforcement wouldn’t have to place themselves in contentious positions that destabilize their relationships with various communities if lawmakers did their jobs of increasing deterrents for the repeat offenders driving crime — if prosecutors stopped reducing charges to wrist slaps, and if judges threw the book at reoffenders. All of these entities should work together with law enforcement cohesively, but many in big cities have become so partisan and corrupt, police alone are left on the hook to protect.
Additionally, citizens have every right to be concerned about the discretion employed to establish the reasonable suspicion (“above a hunch but lower than probable cause,” as the definition goes, also, SCOTUS emphasized) required to engage a stop (this has been a concern of law-abiding gun owners in the past). What influences that discretion? It’s difficult to take issue with this concern considering how our nation is currently embroiled in a scandal involving abuse of a FISA court and partisan agents with the FBI who seemingly plotted to undermine a free and fair election. “If the President of the United States can be targeted, who can’t?” seems a pretty fair thought and unfortunately, as with any large group there always exists a few bad apples — but when it comes to rights and the appearance of any impropriety, those few can threaten the whole bunch.
The thing about stop and frisk is that Bloomberg virtually applies the same mindset where it relates to law-abiding gun owners and Second Amendment rights. He’s spent years (and millions) demonizing gun owners and endorses lawmakers like Kathleen Rice calling us “domestic terrorists.” There has never been any apology to these innocent Americans.
Arguing that critics of Bloomberg’s remarks are nothing more than a way of hitting him politically isn’t a genuine argument either, considering both the manner in which he discussed it and the options available to him as mayor. Do I think Bloomberg is racist? I have no idea what’s in his heart, but if behavioral trends are to be believed, I am absolutely convinced that he’s a bigot, a bigot towards those of lower incomes and particularly towards those who disagree with him on the Second Amendment. If some want to defend Bloomberg’s character that is up to them, but let’s get real: Bloomberg defended this program (whether it worked or not is debatable) for two decades and is only backpedaling now because he was caught on tape.
(Related: What are the official positions of his groups Moms Demand and Everytown on stop and frisk as a #gunsense policy?)