Bloomberg Defends Stop-and-Frisks in Speech at Church

By DNAinfo Staff on June 10, 2012 2:10pm

 Mayor Bloomberg speaks at the First Baptist Church of Brownsville on June 10, 2012
Mayor Bloomberg speaks at the First Baptist Church of Brownsville on June 10, 2012
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Mayor's Office/Spencer T. Tucker

By Aidan Gardiner and Jess Wisloski

DNAinfo.com New York Reporters

BROWNSVILLE — Just an hour before joining the crowded streets of Midtown for one of the city's more festive parades, Mayor Michael Bloomberg delivered a speech to parishioners of a Brooklyn church Sunday defending the city's increasingly controversial stop-and-frisk policy. 

"This year we are on track to record the lowest number of murders in our city’s history. But even though we are safer than ever, in just the first week of June, which was a fairly typical week, we still had 10 murders," Mayor Bloomberg told the mostly black congregation of the First Baptist Church of Brownsville.

He then named each of the most recent victims of gun violence, one by one, to the group of about 100 parishioners.

Bloomberg touted New York as the safest large city in the nation, and spoke mostly to the success his administration has had in keeping the city safe, but he did acknowledge that the tactic could be greatly improved, and outlined three major changes coming to the NYPD related to stop and frisk.

Churchgoers sat solemnly through the speech, in row after row of blue cushioned pews. Many were dressed in their Sunday best, with bright hats and glimmering hairpieces filling the aisles.

Commissioner Raymond Kelly sat in the center front row, with Bishop Gerald G. Seabrooks of Rehoboth Cathedral in Brooklyn at his side. Schools Chancellor Dennis M. Walcott sat in a pew to the right.

When the mayor walked in, he arrived alongside the church's pastor, Bishop A.D. Lyon, just as a prayer ended. The room went silent as he approached the podium to speak.

DNAinfo.com New York's "On the Inside" column revealed last week that the NYPD stopped and frisked a record 685,724 people last year and yet the city saw 1,821 victims of gunfire, a number virtually unchanged from 2002 when 1,892 people were shot, but just 97,296 people were frisked.

"There are some who would say that we stop too many black and Hispanic men," he said, and applause broke out. Bloomberg tried to speak over the clapping.

Mayor Bloomberg at the First Baptist Church of Brownsville on June 10, 2012
Mayor Bloomberg at the First Baptist Church of Brownsville on June 10, 2012
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Mayor's Office/Spencer T. Tucker

"...The sad reality is that most of the violence in our city happens in communities like this one," he said. "Across the city, 90 percent of all murder victims are black and Hispanic — 90 percent."

Bloomberg said he's been working with pastors all over the city to start the discussion with young people about being stopped by cops, and how to handle police interactions on the street.

"Many of the young people have [been frisked] — and some said they understood why. At the same time, many of them said that their interactions with officers left them angry. Either because of disrespectful language or unnecessary force," said Bloomberg.

“I would be angry too. And so I understand why some people have called for stops to be eliminated entirely," he admitted.

But, saying he was paraphrasing Bill Clinton, he said, "I believe the practice needs to be mended, not ended, to ensure that stops are conducted appropriately, with as much courtesy as possible."

He said police owe city dwellers the right to "respectful" interactions, and said the NYPD was committed to fixing the problems pervasive with the stop-and-frisk procedure.

“There’s no doubt that the NYPD is the best-trained police department in the world, but we can always do better," he said. "And when it comes to stops, we must, and we will."

He outlined three changes that he said will take place.

1.) The NYPD will launch a new training course and videos that reinforce the right protocol for stopping people, and lay out the responsibilities police must follow when conducting a stop.

2.) Each police precinct's executive officer, often called an 'XO', will be responsible for personally auditing all stop, question, frisk data, to make sure the proper protocols are followed and to watch out for problems.

3.) Data on stops will be integrated into the department's weekly meetings, so high-ranking NYPD officers can hold each precinct accountable for making sure stops are "properly conducted and performed with dignity."

Church members gave him a standing ovation following the speech. Bishop A.D. Lyon, the church leader, spoke to press immediately afterwards.

"I thought the speech was excellent," he said. "We've got to deal with the reality that there's a lot of crime happening in the African American community. We need to give more attention to who's committing the crimes," he said, but added, "We're not the only ones carrying guns," referring to the police.

Even potential criminals, he said, must be treated with respect. "We've got to respect them, even if they're carrying a gun. You can't just slam them up against a car," he said.

When asked if he thought the NYPD racially profiles, Lyon said simply, "Yes."

Mayor Bloomberg speaking to churchgoers at First Baptist Church of Brownsville, on June 10, 2012.
Mayor Bloomberg speaking to churchgoers at First Baptist Church of Brownsville, on June 10, 2012.
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DNAinfo/Aidan Gardiner

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