Martin Luther King III, city officials call for police reform

Martin Luther King III, city officials call for police reform
Photo by Tequila Minsky

Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer has called for reform of NYPD’s stop and frisk policy during a news conference on the steps of City Hall, Tuesday, April 24.

Stringer recited imposing statistics: last year, of the 685,000 New Yorkers who were stopped and frisked, 85 percent were Black or Latino. There were no arrests for 95 percent. “Targeting or racial profiling is not constitutional,” Stringer said, “It’s not just an issue of people of color.”

“The initiation of SMART (Strategically Managed, Analysis and Research-driven, Technology-based) policing uses technology, research, and analysis to support the strategic management of police activities accounts for the drop in crime,” Stringer said.

“The battle to reform stop and frisk is one of the great civil right struggles of our time,” Stringer added. “As now practiced by the New York Police Department, it amounts to separate and unequal policing on the streets of New York–an affront to King’s legacy.”

Martin Luther King III, son of the slain leader, stood with Stringer and City Council members. “When a person of color is stopped by a police officer once every minute of every day–basically accused of engaging in criminal activity–we need to find the courage within ourselves to say ‘this is not justice’ and to stand up for what is right.”

King reaffirmed his commitment to reducing violence in America’s communities. He supports Mayor Bloomberg’s initiatives to stop the sale of illegal guns and get guns out of the community but believes that the practice of stop and frisk is not working and “on the contrary, the effect on our communities is harmful.”

“It’s a culture,” he continued. We must create a culture of non-violence. There must be balance.” He stressed that “diversity training is missing in our nation” and that “this dialogue must continue to address this issue.”

Several City Council members spoke following King. Daniel Dromm from Queens told of how victims of domestic violence are afraid to go to the police. Council member Melissa Mark-Viverito reiterated that there is a “culture in NYPD” that leads to criminalizing whole neighborhoods. Alluding to a more community oriented Ray Kelly in his earlier tenures as police commissioner, Mark-Viverto said that “Ray Kelly needs to come home.”

“Police policies must respect our communities and our civil liberties,” said Council member Brad Lander who reminded the press that a package of legislation being introduced by Jumaane Williams is calling for oversight of the police department by an inspector general.