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Vogel: Watching Bratton on stop-and-frisk
New Year. New mayor. New police commissioner. Same stop-and-frisk.
Oops, I'm sorry. It's the new, improved stop-and-frisk. Since Mayor Bill de Blasio demonized the term in last year's election, he's had some explaining to do after selecting Bill "Mr. Stop and Frisk" Bratton as police commissioner.
"Stop-and-frisk is a basic tool of policing," Bratton recently told The New Yorker. "If cops aren't doing stop-and-frisk, they aren't doing their jobs."
Perhaps the PR-savvy Bratton, who was sworn in this week, will come up with a new name for it. Frisk and stop? Hold and cuddle? The truth is, it's still stop-and-frisk -- and he has been one of its biggest cheerleaders.
It became a hot-button issue during the mayoral race, with de Blasio leading the charge against it, and he said this week he plans to drop the city's appeal of a judge's ruling that found stop-and-frisk unconstitutional. But Bratton still supports the tactic.
Because the truth is, the problem was not stop-and-frisk -- it was unconstitutional detainment. Many people of color felt they were unfairly halted and harassed, when their only crime was "walking while black or Hispanic." When Bratton assumed the reins of the Los Angeles Police Department, he reached out to lessen friction between African Americans and cops. To a large extent, he succeeded.
Meanwhile, arrests rose, crime plunged, and the streets became safer. But Bratton never gave an inch on his belief in stop-and-frisk, and dismissed an ACLU report saying a disproportionate number of black and Hispanic men were being stopped in such a manner in L.A.
In NYC, especially during the mayoral race, stop-and-frisk became a term that sent many into histrionics. "For it or against it?" is all they demanded to know.
The irony is in 2013, stop-and-frisk rates plunged. About 700,000 people were stopped in 2011 -- averaging almost 60,000 a month. The numbers have dropped, and for the latest reported month (October 2013) there were only 3,000 stop-and-frisks, according to The New York Times. Coupled with Bratton's belief in the practice, don't be surprised if the number of such stops goes up under his watch.
But would the outcry be the same?
Playwright Mike Vogel blogs at newyorkgritty.net.