Supporters of the police tactic stop, question and frisk are getting ready to say “I told you so,” now that new statistics show a spike in shooting incidents.
According to the NYPD, shootings jumped 11 percent compared to the same time last year and this past weekend, there were 21 shootings alone, causing some to second-guess Mayor de Blasio’s decision to drop the city’s appeal against amendments added to stop and frisk.
“No question about it, this was the biggest mistake the city has ever made,” Councilman Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park) said.
Even Police Commissioner Bill Bratton said he would look into whether the Community Safety Act — legislation passed by the City Council which puts an inspector general in the department and allows civilians to file lawsuits against individual police if they feel they were stopped because of their race — could be tied to the spike.
Until now, Bratton was vehemently supportive of de Blasio’s stance on stop and frisk.
The NYPD would not say how it plans to investigate the issue.
Many of the shootings are happening in concentrated areas, specifically the Brownsville section of Brooklyn, Harlem and the North Bronx.
Queens has seen far fewer incidents, but supporters of stop and frisk say it doesn’t matter where the shootings are happening.
“I don’t care if it’s happening in Ozone Park or in Pelham Park, there are shootings going on, and as far as I’m concerned, one shooting is one shooting too many,” Ulrich said. “These acts of violence could have been avoided if we allow the police to use the most effective tool they have.”
Changes to stop and frisk were first introduced by Councilmen Jumaane Williams (D-Brooklyn) and Brad Lander (D-Brooklyn), after allegations of racial profiling and stop quotas were made against the police.
“The police never engaged in racial profiling,” Ulrich said. “That’s already banned by state law. These officers are exercising their constitutional right to question someone they deem suspicious. They engage in criminal profiling, not racial.”
Still, a hefty majority of those stopped were black and Latino men, something critics of stop and frisk say cannot be ignored.
“I spoke with a former commanding officer who said he was only doing stops on Roosevelt Avenue, meaning they were probably targeting immigrants,” Councilman Danny Dromm (D-Jackson Heights) said. “The average officer does not want to make all of these stops but they’re being forced to with quotas.”
Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association spokesman Albert O’Leary said quotas were indeed part of the stop and frisk in the past.
“There’s something wrong when we’re in a culture where one of our guys needs to make 10 stops by such and such a time,” he said. “But there is also the disincentive of a cop being sued. When one of our guys sees someone with something in their jacket, they’re going to wait until the last minute to stop them because they don’t want to get sued.”
Though the threat of lawsuits is something supporters of stop and frisk say hangs above officers’ heads, O’Leary was not aware of any having been filed since the amendment was enacted.
The NYPD would not return requests to comment and the inspector general’s office did not have the information.
Without this data, it is difficult to determine whether cops are in fact reducing stops by the civil suits they potentially face. Regardless, it doesn’t change the spike in shootings.
“While gun incidents are up throughout the city, they say the murders are down but I have to say, it does not feel that way to me,” Councilman Daneek Miller (D-St. Albans) said. “There have still been shootings and deaths in my district but we are working together to change that.”
Miller said his office helped sponsor a gun buyback, during which 40 were taken off the street.
He maintains a combination of education, communication between officers and residents and police tactics is the best way to lower crime in the city.
“I’m certainly not for sticking our heads in the sand,” Miller said. “I do think we should be looking at stop and frisk as a possible cause but there are other things.”
Ulrich, however, disagrees.
“I’m so tired of people thinking that we can educate people out of using guns,” he said. “We need to worry about criminology and less about sociology and allow cops to do their jobs.”
Miller responded, with respect, that he and Ulrich are coming at the issue from very different places.
“I vehemently disagree that there is one simple solution and that stop and frisk is that solution,” the former union leader said. “I will say that I have sat down with the police unions and even they don’t have a simple solution to this problem. Stop and frisk was a way to get bosses promoted but looking at it from a union perspective, the people they represent get all the heat which is creating more tension.
“When you don’t get the outcry from young people in your district, it’s hard to understand. [Ulrich] does not see what I see in my district. Our circumstances dictate who we are and if you don’t see the social and psychological impact of it in your community, then it’s not a big deal.”
Bishop Mitchell Taylor, founder of Urban Upbound, which caters to residents of the Queensbridge Houses, said he thinks it’s way too early to determine which side is right.
Taylor said he is not against stop and frisk and did not necessarily feel the tactic is race driven. Instead, he thinks cultural sensitivity is key.
“New York in general, in spite of the increase in shootings, is still registering as the safest city in the country,” he said. “Now that you see the spike in some of the other boroughs, is this a precursor to crime going up or an anomaly? I’m not sure if we can qualitatively or quantitatively give an answer until we have at least a year of data. If you answer now, you’re speculating.”