by New York City Council Member Oliver Koppel
New Yorkers have expressed their displeasure with the excessive use of stop-and-frisk by the Bloomberg administration.
Voters were moved by this issue in the recent citywide election, a federal court ruled the administration’s use of the policing practice as unconstitutional, and the City Council passed historic laws to ban discriminatory profiling and improve police oversight.
Despite all of this, Mayor Bloomberg
has maintained a deaf ear by continuing to fight reform by appealing the federal court decision and suing the City Council. Unfortunately, Mayor Bloomberg has lost touch with this and the people of our city on the issue.
Fortunately for our city, Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio understands that discriminatory profiling by the police and an abusive stop-and-frisk program are counterproductive to safety. It is essential that Bill Bratton – as his new police commissioner – be more responsive in course-correcting, rejecting bias-based policing, and seeing through the implementation of reforms.
As an attorney with over 30 years of experience, a former New York State Attorney General, and longtime elected official, I have a deep appreciation for constitutional law and a strong commitment to ensuring our city neighborhoods are safe.
While there is a place for the appropriate and lawful use of stop-and-frisk, the Bloomberg administration’s excessive and unconstitutional use hasn’t been demonstrated to improve safety. The number of New Yorkers shot each year hasn’t meaningfully changed under the Bloomberg administration, despite an approximate 600% increase in the use of stop-and-frisk. The Bloomberg program has recovered guns in less than 1% of stops, a disastrous failure rate. There is no proven relationship between stop-and-frisk and homicides, with a record low in homicides coming as the number of stop-and-frisks declined.
What we do know is that the administration’s unlawful application of the practice has negatively impacted the relationship between our city’s communities and the police. A recently released Vera Institute of Justice report illustrated this problem, revealing that stopping law-abiding, young New Yorkers reduced their trust in the police and made them far less likely to report crime, even when they were the victims.
Accusations about the anti-profiling reform law threatening individual officers with liability are disingenuous and inaccurate. Individual police officers will not face any new accountability different than already exists. It is the mayor and police commissioner who will be effectively held responsible under new protections. As a veteran attorney, I’m confident the recently passed police reform law will not inhibit our police department as long as it uses sound and lawful practices.
We have seen the best public safety results come from the use of such practices. When the NYPD made a record seizure of illegal guns, it wasn’t due to stop-and-frisk but a quality investigation by our city’s Finest collaborating with other entities. We need to support our officers pursuing sound policing that improves safety and trust.
New Yorkers must know that they will be treated equally by our city and its police department, and not based on their race, religion or sexual orientation. It is unconscionable that the Bloomberg administration would spend taxpayer money on legal appeals and lawsuits to fight against enforcement of reasonable measures ensuring civil rights and protections for New Yorkers.
It’s time to stop fighting and work toward a process that brings our city together and truly helps improve safety. Mayor-elect de Blasio and Bill Bratton must turn the page on the current administration’s failure to address legitimate concerns and issues – for our safety, justice and the reputation of our city.
Oliver Koppell is the New York City Council Member representing the Kingsbridge, Riverdale, Woodlawn, Norwood, Bedford Park, Wakefield and Bronx Park East neighborhoods of the Bronx.