In an editorial published in Sunday’s Washington Post, Mayor Michael Bloomberg vigorously defended the New York City Police Department’s “stop and frisk” policy on the grounds that the practice prevented 21,651 murders in 2012, before adding that “more than 90 percent of [the victims] would have been black and Hispanic. Some of them would have been children.”
On Monday, The New Yorker‘s Ken Auletta published a lengthy profile in which the Mayor again addressed the plight of hypothetical black and Hispanic children, only this time they were his own: “If I had a son who was stopped, I might feel differently about it,” he conceded.
This concession comes just days after Bloomberg said he would appeal a federal district court’s ruling that “stop and frisk” is “indirect racial profiling” and in violation of Fourth Amendment guarantees against unreasonable search and seizure. He told Reuters that “the possibility of being stopped acts as a vital deterrent,” and Auletta’s profile notes that one of Bloomberg’s “most enduring legacies will be his record, with his police commissioner Ray Kelly, of combatting crime.”
Auletta also reveals that Bloomberg attempted to secure that legacy directly. He secretly financed a poll by his own pollster, Douglas Schoen, which he thought would convince Kelly that he could defeat Bill de Blasio and Christine Quinn in the upcoming mayoral race. Kelly remained unpersuaded, and Bloomberg now must accept that his successor may not continue practices he deems effective.
“I would suggest to the next mayor, whoever it is, that saving lives is the most important thing, more so than pandering,” he said. “Stop-and-frisk has been shown to be—not the only, but the most effective, tool in getting guns out of the hands of kids.”
Despite his assertions, a May 2012 New York Times article found that, “[i]n 2002, when Mr. Kelly last took office, officers stopped 97,296 New Yorkers and the city reported 587 homicides. [In 2011], those numbers were 685,724 and 532.” And a 2011 NYCLU report found that a weapon was found less than 2 percent of the time that people were stopped and frisked.