For too long, we’ve heard nothing but praise for our present police commissioner, Ray Kelly. While he has been lauded by the press for his alleged accomplishments in crime reduction and was even spoken of in political corners as a possible mayoral candidate in 2013, much has been ignored about his policing policies.
Largely ignored have been over 684,000 stop and frisks; thousands of improper arrests; the violence and restrictions inflicted upon New York protesters; widespread corruption in the department; an apparently strong racist streak that still prevails within the department; the NYPD’s surveillance of the Muslim community; and Kelly’s active participation in spreading Islamophobia.
Today, in the year 2012, we have to ask ourselves whether Kelly and his policing policies should continue. The answer is a resounding “No!” It is time for the “Teflon police commissioner” to be evaluated.
Kelly was forced to admit that he lied about his involvement in–as well the number of officers who saw–a racist, anti-Muslim film that had been shown for months to officers receiving anti-terrorism training. About a month prior to this event, the commissioner was forced to publicly educate his officers as to the illegal stop-and-frisk procedures that has led to thousands of marijuana arrests.
It seems like thousands of young Black and Latinos have been forced to empty their pockets and are then arrested for small amounts of marijuana possession. In New York State, such possession, as long as it’s not in public view, is legal. This fact hasn’t stopped police officers from arresting and convicting thousands of young people, many of them Black and Latino.
Kelly’s surveillance of the Muslim community, and his continued defense of that surveillance, coupled with Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s support of the practice, are simply reprehensible and continue to highlight the criminalization of communities of color by the NYPD. The secret surveillance of the Muslim community, here and beyond the city’s boundaries, has made many think about whether their communities are under surveillance.
The stop-and-frisk policy of Kelly has now reached an all-time record of over 684, 000 stop and frisks for the year 2011, with 3 million since 2004. Ninety percent of those stopped and frisked have been Black or Latino.
Many of these stop and frisks are solely based on the stereotyping of young African-American and Latino males, but young females have been increasingly stopped without the reasonable suspicion required by law. These stops are humiliating to the victim and cause irreparable harm to police and community relations. The statistics scream loud and clear–the policies of the NYPD constitute a clear case of racial profiling and do not keep the public safe.
Kelly’s policies of containing protests and protestors in the city are way out of line. The First Amendment’s right to assemble was meant to be a meaningful right. By preventing street marches and rigidly controlling protests with the use of barricades, the public in New York City is steadily losing that right.
At recent protests in the Bronx and in Manhattan, we have seen and heard officers placing unreasonable restrictions on protestors while acting aggressively and hostile to those exercising their First Amendment rights. The use of over 1,000 police officers to oust the protestors from Zuccotti Park and the treatment of the press during that raid are but more examples of Kelly’s willingness to violate basic rights.
Kelly has presided over a police force still grappling with corruption and union cronyism. The ticket fixing scandal involved hundreds of police officers. There have been accusations in Brooklyn of a ring of retired officers and current ones selling guns. There have been numerous arrests of officers involved in drug sales.
Recently, we got to read the racist comments made by some of the officers discussing the West Indian Day Parade. In the Bronx, we recently had a police officer’s march at the arraignment of those charged with ticket fixing. While passing the hundreds of people lined up to apply for welfare, many of the white officers were heard shouting racial insults at those waiting in line.
The same officers who stop and frisk us and prevent us from marching were heard shouting these insults. Kelly’s limited racial sensitivity classes seem to have borne no fruit.
These items are just the tip of the iceberg in the case against Kelly. We must ask ourselves, what price must we pay for the reduction of crime? The very statistics that are used to celebrate crime reduction have been under question, first raised in the Village Voice and most recently in the New York Times.
It is most obvious that it is time to question the Teflon police commissioner. It is time to ask, what price must we pay for crime reduction? Why not put a camera in everyone’s house? This might reduce crime, but at what price to our privacy? Crime reduction does not require the systematic deprivation of the rights of a large number of the population. Others have used different, less draconian tactics while achieving the same results.
Perhaps it is time for Kelly to march out of New York City? Perhaps it is time for an administration that protects and respects the rights of all New Yorkers?
We say, “Ray Kelly has got to GO.” What about YOU?