NAACP President Ben Jealous called on New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg to end the controversial stop-and-frisk program before he leaves office next January and admit that he’s been wrong for the past decade in claiming the program is effective.
Jealous made his remarks yesterday from the pulpit of Nazarene Congregational Church in Brooklyn — just a day after reports emerged that Academy Award-winning actor Forest Whitaker was stopped and frisked by a store employee at an upscale Morningside Heights deli on Friday as he was leaving the store. Whitaker’s publicist confirmed that an overzealous employee at Milano Market accused Whitaker of shoplifting and forced him to submit to a humiliating pat-down, according to the New York Daily News.
Whitaker, who lives in California, is in New York working on a film, Black Nativity, with Angela Bassett.
During his sermon, Jealous told the congregation that the NAACP is hearing from NYPD officers who say the stop-and-frisk policy is wrong.
“I ask you, before you leave, repair the damage you have done,” Jealous said, addressing his comments to Mayor Bloomberg, who was not present. “Kids in this city are too afraid of the very people who have sworn to respect and protect them.”
The mayor continued to defend his program in his annual State of the City address several days ago, which Jealous described as the mayor feeling “the need to evangelize what he sees as the value of the stop-and-frisk program.”
Bloomberg announced that he would ease the laws on marijuana possession in the city, making it a misdemeanor, but several young black men told WNYC after Jealous’ speech that such a move won’t stop police harassment because they don’t smoke weed but still get stopped.
A report released two weeks ago revealed that 533,042 people were stopped and frisked in 2012, about 22 percent fewer than the nearly 686,000 stops conducted in 2011. In those stops, the number of firearms recovered fell from 819 to 780.
“A gun was found in 0.1% of stops,” said New York Civil Liberties Union Executive Director Donna Lieberman. “That is an unbelievably poor yield rate for such an intrusive, wasteful and humiliating police action.”
Bloomberg spokesman John McCarthy responded to Jealous by claiming that under the mayor and Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly, New York City is the safest big city in America.
“In New York City fewer young men are being killed or shot and fewer are going to jail than ever before — and that’s a record of accomplishment that we intend to continue until Mike Bloomberg leaves office,” McCarthy said.
Last month, stop-and-frisk was dealt a severe blow when a federal judge ruled that a portion of the program being used in the Bronx was an unconstitutional violation of the rights of city residents who are being stopped without probable cause.
Critics of the program hope that the decision will have a transforming effect on a program that has been angrily attacked by civil rights advocates, legal groups, community organizations and politicians for disproportionately targeting blacks and Latinos in the city. Judge Shira A. Scheindlin’s 157-page ruling is especially harsh and could be costly for the city because the judge suggests that police officers are being improperly trained.
Christopher T. Dunn, a lawyer for the New York Civil Liberties Union, one of the groups representing the plaintiffs, told The New York Times, “If New York City has any sense, it will use this ruling as an opportunity to start a wholesale reform of stop and frisk.”