If you are black or Hispanic and have been stopped and harassed by a member of the NYPD, Ray Kelly believes you're guilty of something. That's essentially what the prospective new head of the Department of Homeland Security said this morning during a discussion of stop-and-frisk on MSNBC's "Morning Joe."
Here's a summary of the exchange, courtesy of Mediaite:
"It is a practice that is essential to policing. Police use it throughout America. As a matter of fact, you can't police without doing it." He said the criticism of the practice has been "overblown" and pointed out that "it's only one piece of what we're doing in New York City and in other cities, too."
Brzezinski pushed back on the benign picture of stop-and-frisk painted by Kelly saying, "You put a lot of numbers on the table here, but the numbers also show that the people who are stopped and frisked are primarily minorities and primarily end up to be found doing nothing wrong. So one of the arguments would be that going up to people who are doing nothing wrong is not stopping crime–it's breeding resentment and playing a dangerous game of profiling that could explode at some point."
"The notion anyone stopped has done absolutely nothing wrong is not really the case," Kelly responded, insisting that police "need reasonable suspicion to stop someone and question them." He also countered accusations that the NYPD has "quotas" regarding stops, instead referring to the numbers officers are asked to hit as "productivity goals, like in any other business."
Kelly's name was immediately floated after DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano announced she'd leave the department this fall. Chuck Schumer quickly endorsed the idea. Obama said he was open to it. Now Kelly is on a tour to redeem his good name and policing tactics from an onslaught of columns, tweets, and blog posts opposing his nomination. Kelly's MSNBC appearance was clearly part of that. So too was the editorial the WSJ published this morning, titled, "The NYPD: Guilty of Saving 7,383 Lives." For a lie-by-lie takedown of Kelly's fictional recounting of his own tenure, see Alex Pareene's piece at Salon. A sample:
So far this year, murders are down 29% from the 50-year low achieved in 2012, and we've seen the fewest shootings in two decades.
Kelly does not mention that murders have declined along with stop-and-frisks. In the first quarter of this year, the NYPD carried out 51 percent fewer stop-and-frisks than in the first quarter of 2012. That is more than 100,000 fewer stops. The result has not been more murder.
Never mind that in each of the city's 76 police precincts, the race of those stopped highly correlates to descriptions provided by victims or witnesses to crimes. Or that in a city of 8.5 million people, protected by 19,600 officers on patrol (out of a total uniformed staff of 35,000), the average number of stops we conduct is less than one per officer per week.
Then those officers are quite efficient. The city has recorded more than five million stops since Bloomberg took office. Perhaps Commissioner Kelly is referring solely to this year's numbers, which, as mentioned earlier, are down significantly, along with the murder rate.
Nominating Kelly to head up the DHS would be a political nightmare for Obama. I hope he thinks better of it.