I was at El Museo del Barrio on Upper Fifth Avenue a couple of years ago, for a commemoration of the contribution activist groups from the old days like the Puerto Rican Young Lords contributed to empowering the city’s minorities.
One of the speakers was Felipe Luciano, who now works as spokesman for Newark Mayor Ras Baraka, but then was a Manhattan-based fiery community activist.
Felipe made a couple of points involving the burden of the criminal records that young black and brown men often carry from their childhoods; Felipe making the point that he was an ex con himself; and like so many others was therefore excluded from most city jobs. He went on passionately to blame Stop and Frisk specifically for wrecking the chance of so many young men to move up the social economic ladder because of busts for pot possession and other minor offenses.
My old client’s remarks made an impression on me because I always focused on the short term benefits from the program in reducing street crime, and hadn’t really thought through the long term consequences of the Stop and Frisk and by extension the whole Broken Windows theory of policing…in Felipe’s words, a kid being banned for life because he got roused and cops found a couple of joints.
That revelation was reinforced by the various anti-stop and frisk demonstrations that followed that speech, including a huge one led by Reverend Sharpton down 5th Avenue to Mayor Bloomberg’s townhouse on the Upper East Side.
What followed, indeed what was already happening was a moderation of Stop and Frisk in the last two years under Mayor Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly having to do with reduced pot busts and other minor offenses.
But the question of the impact of Stop and Frisk and whether it had taken a toll of the pool of potential police recruits came back big time Tuesday when an interview with the current Commissioner Bill Bratton was published in which the Commish is quoted as blaming those stop and frisk related criminal records for the relative scarcity of black police recruits.
”We have a significant population gap among African-American males because so many of them have spent time in jail and as such, we can’t hire them.”
“The unfortunate consequences of stop question and frisk resulted in many black and Latino men getting busted and having records. As a result, the population pool of minority candidates, especially blacks is much smaller than it might ordinarily have been.”
Blacks represent 23% of New York City’s population but just 16% of the NYPD. Whites are 33% of the city, but 54% of the department. Hispanics make up 28% of the city and 24% of the police force.
Later Tuesday, when reporters started reacting to the Commissioner’s remarks and the outrage over the remarks really heated up, the commissioner didn’t deny saying what he said, but argued it was out of context.
“It’s an unfortunate fact that in the male black population, a very significant percentage of them, more so than whites or other minority candidates, because of convictions, prison records, are never going to be hired by a police department. That’s a reality. That’s not a byproduct of stop and frisk.
“15% to 20% of black males have some type of criminal history and that’s an issue of great concern in the black community.”
Stop and Frisk aside, that statistic represents a devastating indictment, but of what or whom?