CNN anchor Don Lemon credited the heavily-criticized “stop and frisk” approach by New York City police with a dramatic reduction in local crime in a radio commentary on Tuesday, and suggested that tampering with it would hurt not just the city’s residents, but its economy.
“The question is: would you rather be politically correct or safe and alive?” Lemon said on the Tom Joyner Show. “That’s the real issue facing the citizens of New York and pretty soon, ultimately you.”
Lemon argued that if the winner of Tuesday’s changes the NYPD’s law enforcement “formula,” including the policy, and the crime rate increases, “beyond local citizens moving away to the suburbs, people will stop visiting, stop spending their tourist dollars.”
A federal appeals court ruled on Oct. 31 to block an order for the NYPD to revise the policy, a move that irritated local activist groups. Bill de Blazio, the Democratic candidate and presumptive favorite to win the mayor’s race, has publicly stated his opposition to the practice. Joyner’s co-host, Sybil Wilkes, mentioned to Lemon that de Blazio’s wife, who is Black, and the couple’s biracial children are more likely to be affected by it.
According to Lemon, “stop and frisk,” which has been found to be ineffective while targeting Black and Latino men almost exclusively, the most important issue in the country besides employment concerns and the Affordable Care Act, and said members of those communities would support the practice if it were conducted like an airport security search, while knowing that would never happen.
“They know that officers will most likely not be that polite, if you can call that polite,” Lemon said. “They know that in reality they will probably be ordered to put their hands up, spread their legs, or lay on the ground and be handcuffed while an officer or officers have their ways with them, touching them wherever they’d like or handling them however they’d like.”
In fact, the policy — which Lemon insisted on referring to as “stop, question and frisk” — has been consistently opposed by activist groups, including a June 2012 silent march that drew thousands and was supported by 299 community organizations.
Fahd Ahmed, legal and policy director for Desis Rising Up and Moving, (DRUM), said Lemon’s distinction between safety and “political correctness” was misleading.
“When we have youth in our community who have been subjected to such discriminatory policing dozens of times each, and often in very humiliating ways, we understand that this is not about a minor hassle,” Ahmed said via email to The Raw Story on Tuesday. “It is the wholesale profiling of entire communities. We can protect the rights and dignity of our community members while still keeping our communities safe. In fact, many in our communities believe that respect of their rights would create greater trust, and thus even safer communities.”
Lemon was also mocked on social media for his commentary, and Buzzfeed pointed out that Lemon sued a Philadelphia record store in May 2001, claiming that a white security employee followed him to his car and attacked him under the assumption he stole a compact disc player that he actually bought.
Update, 6:13 p.m. EST: Another activist group, Communities United for Police Reform, released a statement to the Raw Story accusing Lemon of repeating propaganda about “stop and frisk.”
“One would expect fear-mongering from politicians; for it to come from a ‘journalist’ is surprising, but no less irresponsible,” Communities United’s statement read. “Stop-and-frisk has not reduced gun violence in any considerable way, and it is those communities most violated by stop-and-frisk who live day-in and day-out with the gun violence that the Bloomberg administration’s stop-and-frisk policy has failed to address. Our city and communities need reforms that will actually help improve safety by promoting lawful and sound policing, and a strong relationship between communities and the NYPD.”
[Image via CNN]