In a pandering, sophistic speech this afternoon, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg lashed out at critics of the New York Police Department’s controversial stop-and-frisk policies. Playing to his audience—the New York Times article notes that the room in which he spoke was “packed shoulder-to-star-covered-shoulder” with police officials—Bloomberg ripped into those who’ve advocated for an independent inspector general to review department policies and procedures. The Times reports that Bloomberg accused the department’s critics of “playing politics with people’s lives,” praised stop-and-frisk-style policies for getting guns off the streets and preventing crime, and even found a way to bring the Boston Marathon bombing into the discussion:
“Look at what’s happened in Boston,” Mr. Bloomberg said. “Remember what happened here on 9/11. Remember all of those who’ve been killed by gun violence and the families they left behind.”
Yeah, you know what they say: If anyone dares criticize a racist, ineffective, and possibly unconstitutional policing strategy, then the terrorists win. Almost 90 percent of the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk encounters last year turned up nothing—no drugs, no weapons, no outstanding warrants. All they did was engender fear and resentment among the city’s minority communities. This is part of the reason why so many NYPD critics want to appoint an independent inspector general who’s empowered to review the department’s standards and practices, especially those policies that tend to alienate the department from the communities it serves.
The inspector general proposal is not as straightforward as it sounds. The best argument I’ve seen against it comes from criminal justice professor Eugene O’Donnell, who agrees that the NYPD needs to reform but thinks the inspector general proposal wouldn’t actually change the culture of the department, and would mainly serve to further depress morale among the rank-and-file. The worst argument I’ve seen against it came today, from Mayor Bloomberg, who warned that the existence of an inspector general would make it harder for the department to fight terrorism, since other police departments would be less likely to share information with the NYPD if there was a chance an outsider might glimpse that info. I suppose he might have a point if the city were to appoint, say, Julian Assange as the inspector general. But that is rather unlikely to happen.