Bloomberg’s legacy under fire for NYPD tactics

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg exits after a speech to the Real Estate Board of New York in New York, May 30, 2013.  Credit: Reuters
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg exits after a speech to the Real Estate Board of New York in New York, May 30, 2013.
Credit: Reuters

A growing chorus of critics has challenged Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s approach to fighting crime, pushing back against policies that he credits for making New York the safest major city in America.

With a few months left in office, Bloomberg can say crime fell 34 percent over a decade during his tenure. For much of his first two terms, he also was heralded as a healer for the city’s tense race relations.

But with Bloomberg’s third and final four-year term ending on January 1, Democrats seeking to replace him have joined civil rights leaders and the heavily Democratic city council in hammering at a cornerstone of his legacy: The New York Police Department’s crime-fighting tactic known as stop-and-frisk.

Critics say police randomly and unfairly stop young African American and Latino men, most of whom are never charged with crimes after being subjected to searches. But polls show that about half of New Yorkers support stop-and-frisk as a strategy that has helped reduce crime.

This week, the city council defied Bloomberg on the police power issue, approving a pair of measures on Thursday that he vigorously opposed. One creates an independent inspector general to monitor the NYPD, and the other expands the definition of racial profiling and allows people who believe they have been profiled to sue police in state court.

Both measures passed with at least the two-thirds majority needed to override his promised veto.

The defeat was unusual for Bloomberg, 71, a politically independent billionaire who rose to national prominence during more than 11 years in office. Through most of his tenure, Bloomberg has been feared and respected, enhancing his stature with a national coalition Mayors Against Illegal Guns and flirting with a presidential run in 2008.

“For two terms, it didn’t percolate so hot, this issue,” said Eugene O’Donnell, a professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. He said the public’s fatigue with Bloomberg and an overall skepticism about police work helped give an opening to some of the more intense critiques of stop-and-frisk.

“It appears there may have been a shift in opinion about policing,” O’Donnell said.

A Bloomberg spokesman noted that polling has showed strong public support for Kelly and the NYPD.

PUBLIC OPINION DIVIDED

In heavily Democratic New York City, the winner of the September 10 Democratic primary will be heavily favored against the Republican in the November 5 general election.

All five of the major Democratic candidates have called the number of stop-and-frisk incidents excessive. Only City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, a Bloomberg ally, has said she would keep Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, who has described stop-and-frisk as an invaluable crime-fighting tool, though she said she would demand a drop in the number of stop-and-frisk incidents.

One turning point in the perception about Bloomberg may have come last May, when the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) released statistics showing police conducted more stops of black males between the ages of 14 and 24 than the total number of young black males living in New York City.

Police stops surged from 160,851 in 2003 to 685,724 in 2011, when 1.8 percent of searches of minority suspects that year resulted in weapons seizures.

At a news conference this week, Bloomberg invoked the high-crime days of the 1970s in a strong warning to council members not to pass the bill.

Bloomberg and Kelly have also irked advocates and members of the city council by invoking the names of al Qaeda and violent street gangs to make their case.

“What they’re doing is preying on people’s fears. Everyone wants to live in a safer city,” said Donna Lieberman, executive director of the NYCLU.

On Friday, Bloomberg appeared to double down.

“And you know, everybody’ll say, ‘Oh, you’re overstating it.’ I don’t know if you’re overstating it or not, but I’m not willing to find out,” Bloomberg told a radio program. “I don’t know what you’d say at the eulogy if a cop got killed, and say, ‘Well it turned out we weren’t overstating it. Sorry.”

The public’s view of the debate is mixed.

A Marist poll released on Thursday found New Yorkers were happy with Kelly – more than half want him to continue in the next administration – and about half said the practice of stop-and-frisk should continue. But just 6 percent of voters thought crime should top the next mayor’s agenda.

“It’s been some time since crime has been at the top of minds,” said Lee Miringoff, director of the Marist Institute for Public Opinion.

A Marist poll from the high-crime days of 1992 found that 33 percent of New Yorkers saw crime as the top issue.

 



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

After Eric Garner death, religious leaders meet to…

Interfaith leaders convened with city officials to discuss what the community can do to help dial down heightened tensions after Eric Garner's death.

Local

'Suspicious' Hamilton Heights fire caused by power strip:…

An extension cord overload caused the deadly fire in Hamilton Heights late Monday that killed a 15-year-old girl and injured at least 12 others.

National

At 91, Marvel creator Stan Lee continues to…

By Piya Sinha-RoyLOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Marvel Entertainment's chief emeritus Stan Lee may be in his ninth decade, but it hasn't stopped him from adding…

National

Islamic State says beheads U.S. journalist, holds another

Islamic State insurgents released a video purportedly showing the beheading of U.S. journalist James Foley, who had gone missing in Syria nearly two years ago.

Movies

Review: Sadly, Matthew Weiner's 'Are You Here' is…

"Mad Men" creator Matthew Weiner tries his hand at movies with "Are You Here," a misjudged Owen Wilson-Zach Galifianakis comedy that turns into a drama.

Movies

Review: 'Love is Strange' is not only a…

John Lithgow and Alfred Molina tie the knot in "Love is Strange," but the film winds up being more about living with people than an activist picture.

Movies

Frank Miller on writing 'Sin City'

Frank Miller's comics career is a long and storied one, with "Sin City" being one of his most individual creations. Here, in his own words,…

Movies

Interview: Jessica Alba is a stripper again in…

Jessica Alba has gotten used to vague phone calls from director Robert Rodriguez, the Austin-based auteur who has made a habit of putting Alba into…

NFL

2014 Fantasy Football: Rankings, list of top NFL…

2014 Fantasy Football: Rankings, list of top NFL defense (DEF)

NFL

2014 Fantasy Football: Rankings, list of top NFL…

2014 Fantasy Football: Rankings, list of top NFL quarterbacks (QB)

MLB

Shane Greene travels unlikely road to Yankees stardom

Shane Greene was throwing a bullpen session on a quiet field at Daytona Beach Community College one day when the ball started moving.

NFL

2014 Fantasy Football: Rankings, list of top NFL…

2014 Fantasy Football: Rankings, list of top NFL tight ends (TE)

Wellbeing

Going green could be the key to getting…

If we could just pursue the things that would actually make us happy, we could help the environment too, according to a New York researcher.…

Wellbeing

Metabolic syndrome could have a sugar link

Scientists in St. Louis may have found another culprit in metabolic syndrome, which can lead to heart disease and type 2 diabetes.  Uric acid is…

Wellbeing

Another way stress hurts your unborn baby

Mothers know to try staying calm during pregnancy, as stress has been linked to behavioral and developmental problems for their babies. But now, a new…

Tech

Siren: A new dating app that puts women…

Online dating can be brutal, especially for single women. Noting that many women hate wading through inappropriate messages and photos, two tech entrepreneurs decided to…