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by Peter Moskos

March 16, 2012

The Ray Kelly Smackdown Hour

Except this time it was Ray Kelly who was doing the smacking down. He gave it back good to the New York City Council on the subject of stop and frisks and violence among minority youths. From the New York Times:
“What I haven’t heard is any solution to the violence problems in these communities — people are upset about being stopped, yet what is the answer?” Mr. Kelly asked Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito, who had been asking the commissioner to acknowledge that the department’s practice of street stops in minority communities left many people “feeling under siege.”

“What have you said about how do we stop this violence?” Mr. Kelly asked, asserting that violence among minority youth is “something that the government has an obligation to try to solve.”

Ms. Mark-Viverito, whose district includes East Harlem and part of the South Bronx, was now pressed for an answer.

“There needs to be prevention and deeper community-based tactics and strategy” she offered. “Yeah, what is that?” he asked in a dismissive manner.

Ms. Mark-Viverito spent the next few moments trying to exit the debate over police tactics that she had sought, eventually saying, “I think I’ve made my point.”

To that, Mr. Kelly shot back: “I’m not certain what your point is.”

Of course there is a better solution: smarter stop and frisks, based not on "productivity goals" but on actions of intelligent police officers who have discretion and can distinguish between criminal and non-criminal black man.

But Kelly has a point. It's too easy to criticize the police. It would also help if you actually had some ideas as to how to make police better. And it is the government's obligation to try and solve the problem of violence in minority neighborhoods. It's not that the police are without blame... but don't just blame the police.

Update: Some of the video can be seen here.


Anonymous said...

Interesting that Kelly thinks routine violations of the Fourth Amendment are the only guard against violence...

PCM said...

That's a matter for the courts to decide, isn't it?

You may think it's a violation. *I* may think it's a violation. But we don't really make those decisions. If the courts say it's not a violation, who are we to tell Kelly he's wrong.

Jay Livingston said...

"police officers who have discretion and can distinguish between criminal and non-criminal black man."

FYI, back in 2008, I had a post, based on some LAPD data, on this and how it intersects with race.

Anonymous said...

Saying it's up to the courts to decide is a bit of a dodge. Kelly has responsibilities to follow the law, too. Part of his job is to devise police strategies that respect the rights of the citizenry.

PCM said...

Yes. And it's the job of lawmakers, too, as Kelly to tactfully put it.

In the meantime, Kelly will keep acting and setting a policy based on what he thinks is right, with the advice and consent of the city's lawyers.

bacchys said...

Call me cynical, but I don't think Kelly is thinking of this policy in terms of lawfulness or if it's right or not. I don't think he's concerned with making violating the rights of citizens and other residents of New York City a matter of routine. I've no doubt he's focused on reducing crime, and coupled with that is a desire to make the job of the police easier. Left out of the equation are the rights of the people he's supposed to protect.

Moreover, it's not like Kelly has to put up with that sort of thing.

These types of interactions erode trust in the police. It makes it more difficult for the police to interact with the community. A bad experience with one police officer means some future police officer who is perhaps looking for a witness to a crime finds himself faced with hostility and distrust.

After 9/11 I was activated and sent to D.C. to guard Ft. Myers, VA. The policy of the Provost Marshall was that every person who entered the post would show ID. The Assistant Provost Marshall, OTOH, insisted any soldier who asked him for his ID would be in trouble. Kelly reminds me of that APM: the law doesn't apply to him.