NEW YORK CITY, U.S.A. This article is part of a two-part series on Blacks in NYC. Read the first segment here.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is no stranger to the stop-and-frisk harassment millions of black New Yorkers are subjected to on the streets every day in the hands of police officers.
De Blasio himself is white but he is married to a black woman and his kids are mixed but with black skin color. So, it was no surprise that one of the promises de Blasio made during his campaign for Mayorship of the city of New York was to put an end to the stop-and-frisk program. Thirty days into his administration, de Blasio delivered on his promise to end the practice.
The mayor believed that this new policy -to put an end to stop-and-frisk program- would make the city safer, for it will free up police officers to focus on community policing and improve relations with the population that is mostly affected by the program. It is time to mend the fabric of police-community relations, and start down a new path that lays the groundwork for real and lasting public safety, said the mayor.
De Blasio means business; besides putting an end and making the practice of stop-and-frisk illegal in NYC through the new policy, de Blasio moved quickly to drop the appeal his predecessor, former mayor Michael Bloomberg initiated against a judge’s ruling ordering the City to end the stop-and-frisk program. De Blasio settled on behalf of NYC what was a long-running lawsuit against the police department’s stop-and-frisk policy.
Those new initiatives by the mayor are widely seen in the black community, especially by activist leaders as a positive step towards ending the regular harassments young black males have been subjected to every day.
Mrs. Myrlene Conze, whose husband of 15 years was stop-and-frisked a few times over the span of a decade, is particularly happy that the new mayor has tackled the problem head-on; Mrs. Conze was among the thousands who marched on June 8, 2012 to protest the stop-and-frisk policies, but she is hopeful that the situation will gradually improve; “I am cautiously hopeful,” she said; “the mayor has thus far kept his promise regarding this issue. We’ll see,” she added, laughing.
Mrs. Conze is not alone. Vincent Warren, executive director of the Center for Constitutional Rights who represented the plaintiffs in a lawsuit against the City, stated in response to collaborate with the mayor, “I can’t wait to get started.” Mr. Warren, just like Mrs. Conze, is also cautiously optimistic and believes there is a lot more work to do, “Nobody… is pretending this is mission accomplished. The problem hasn’t been solved,” but he’s hanging to the mayor’s statement that, “this will be one city where everyone rises together, where everyone’s rights are protected.”
It is a very good start; most blacks cheered the mayor’s initiative but it’s too early to tell. The mayor has been in office less than 90 days. Give it time, they say.
Not everyone believes the mayor is sincere in his promise; he appointed Bill Bratton as police commissioner. Mr. Bratton is a vocal supporter of stop-and-frisk. He served as NYPD commissioner from 1994 to 1996 under former mayor Rudy Giuliani; the commissioner expanded the program to aggressively pursue small crimes such as vandalism, loitering and the like.
It seems at best that de Blasio has secured the use of stop-and-frisk for years to come. This is not so, said the new police commissioner. He admitted that the practice has damaged the relation between the police and the population; “we need to repair it,” he said.
Despite the cynicism felt and expressed by some, due mostly to the mayor’s choice of police commissioner, most blacks cheer the initiatives to end the stop-and-frisk program. The mayor has been in office for a very short time. He needs time to prove himself.