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NAACP condemns Quinn's support of stop-and-frisk

HAZEL DUKES | 6/20/2013, 10:42 a.m.

Last year on June 15, New York City Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn joined the NAACP and a coalition of New Yorkers to deliver Mayor Michael Bloomberg a Father's Day present he will not soon forget: 75,000 silent protestors outside his home.

The Silent March on Father's Day was a reminder that New York City's fathers and sons are criminalized on a daily basis by Bloomberg's racial profiling program, known as stop-and-frisk policing. The march drew civil rights activists and elected officials of all races, creeds and backgrounds, including many mayoral hopefuls like Quinn.

In the months since, many of those city leaders have continued to speak out against the racial profiling program. But last week, Quinn suffered a failing of leadership when she decided to oppose a bill that would make racial and religious profiling illegal.

Quinn has demonstrated that she understands the threat posed by racial profiling. In early 2012, she wrote a letter to New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly calling for reform. The letter read, "I believe that, at times, [stop-and-frisk] has been carried out in a way that has sown distrust in communities of color." That is why it came as a surprise when she announced she would not support a cornerstone provision of the Community Safety Act, which would allow New Yorkers to seek legal redress when they believe an officer has targeted them based on the color of their skin or their religious garb. There is an exemption for cases where the police report specifically indicates a suspect's race. It takes concrete steps to prevent New York City police from abusing their powers.

Quinn argued that the anti-profiling bill could hamstring police officers from doing their job. In fact, it would have the opposite effect. Police are not doing their job when they profile based on race. Instead, they are wasting their time and resources when they could be searching for criminals and suspects based on behavior, rather than the color of their skin.

Quinn did offer support for another key provision of the Community Safety Act, which mandates the creation of an inspector general to monitor the NYPD. However, unless this is accompanied by strong anti-racial profiling legislation, this would merely add one more level of oversight as police continue to discriminate. Instead, the New Yorkers who are constantly targeted--whether it's for being Black, Latino, LGBT, Muslim or an immigrant--should have a way to hold police accountable.

New York City is at a crossroads. In March, NYPD officers performed their five-millionth stop in the Kelly era. Out of 533,000 stops in 2012, 89 percent did not lead to an arrest and 90 percent were people of color. Last year's Silent March brought together a strong coalition committed to ending stop-and-frisk, Communities United for Police Reform. They helped raised this issue to the national limelight just in time for the mayoral election.

Many other cities follow New York City's lead when it comes to policing, though sometimes under different names. Quinn has the chance, like Bloomberg, to lead on a national level. She should stick with her convictions and support an end to legalized racial profiling.

Hazel Dukes is the president of the New York State Conference of the NAACP.