“Stop-and-frisk” is back in the news, thanks to leaked 2015 quotes from Mike Bloomberg that to many seem too rough.
The former NYC mayor, current plutocrat, and contender for the Democratic nomination recalled policies that targeted kids in minority neighborhoods to “throw them against the wall and frisk them.”
Many Democrats were incensed (though not all — polling data suggests Bloomberg actually gained with older black voters during this period). A wave of outrage, buoyed by enraged Twitter users, hit Bloomberg for his alleged racism. He responded by walking back his prior support for these policies, such as his op-ed in 2013, “Frisks save lives.”
But they do — or at least, they can.
The murder rate has plummeted in New York City, from a peak of over 2,000 a year in the early 1990s, to below 500 a year by the time Bloomberg left office in 2013. The vast majority of murder victims in cities like NYC and Philadelphia are black. Shouldn’t over a thousand avoided deaths per year be the lede, not just a stammered afterthought?
Without condoning the mayor’s language, or arbitrary race-based stops, if stop-question-frisk was a part of the policing approach that led to thousands of lives saved a year, should we really be tossing it out the window?
If you truly care about black lives, the principal goal must be to reduce crime. Black Americans, particularly those living in low-income urban areas, are most likely to be murdered, and not primarily by police — by other civilians.
Using stop-and-frisk properly, including respecting its full original description as “stop, question, and frisk,” can help prevent crime. The key to using it appropriately is reasonable suspicion: a police officer pulls aside someone who is fighting on the street or looks like they’re dealing drugs (the two scenarios, police data show, are most likely to lead to murder). He doesn’t just indiscriminately throw a bystander against a wall.
It is the existence of racial disparities in the stops that incenses many on the left. Unfortunately, what they often label “racial profiling” may just be a mirror of the racial disparities that exist in shooting rates.
Bloomberg was wrong, speaking out of line, to suggest good law enforcement would target all or only young black men. That would still miss a lot of shootings, and moreover, most young black men aren’t ever going to get near a murder scene. Still, racial disparities will arise even in fair policing — because those disparities exist in reality.
Crime statistics suggest most shootings are perpetrated by black Philadelphians, affecting mostly black victims. The police may be “understopping” white men relative to the larger population, or 70-year-old black women, for that matter, but crimes are not perpetrated evenly, nor are victims distributed evenly. Any intelligent law enforcement strategy should be based on reality.
Under the influence of activists, law enforcement is veering to the left in Philadelphia, and shootings and murders are surging.
If current statistics hold in 2020, we will see 30% more murder victims by the end of the year, corresponding to over 80 more black lives snuffed out on our streets.
These will be people like Ishan Rahman, who was gunned down, along with her unborn child, in an attempted robbery last week while she was sitting in the passenger seat of a car in North Philadelphia. Her killer was out on bail for an aggravated assault just days earlier.
Perhaps we’re all being ill-served by an agenda which prizes academic talking points above realities, castigates all members of law enforcement — including black and Hispanic officers — as partaking in a racist “system,” and aims to disarm the police — and replace them with what, I would ask?
The need for a robust law enforcement presence, and using all the tools we have developed to prevent such crimes from spiking, does not erase the need for more community engagement from the police, de-escalation training, and an acknowledgment that many people feel unfairly targeted by the cops — i.e., the state — in their own neighborhoods.
But let’s remember: The police come from our community, and they are us. Every society needs laws, and every person in a civilized society should feel safe to exist without the threat of violence in front of their eyes, or outside their windows.
Those concerned about crime as well as racial disparities can say yes to reforms but must say no to calls for “disarming the police,” no to not prosecuting or underprosecuting violent crimes, and no to any law enforcement conversation that does not center around the core of the issue: reducing rates of violent crime visited most heavily on lower-income black Philadelphians.
Reform the police intelligently — yes. But take away their tools to fight violent crime? No way.