Yesterday Democratic mayoral candidate Bill Thompson gave a moving speech at a Brooklyn church in which he drew striking parallels between the Trayvon Martin verdict and racial profiling within the NYPD. “Here in New York City, we have institutionalized Mr. Zimmerman’s suspicion with a policy that all but requires our police officers to treat young black and Latino men with suspicion, to stop them and frisk them because of the color of their skin,” he said. “If our government profiles people because of skin color and treats them as potential criminals, how can we expect citizens to do any less?" Yet Thompson opposes City Council legislation that would expand protections against racial profiling and provide New Yorkers with a meaningful method to challenge discriminatory police policies.
A cynic might suggest that Thompson opposes the legislation—part of the Community Safety Act passed last month and vetoed by Mayor Bloomberg last week—in order to woo endorsements from law enforcement unions.
In June, Thompson earned the support of a coalition of unions for uniformed first responders, including the Detectives Endowment Association, which promoted a wildly misleading ad campaign against the Community Safety Act.
In a recent survey [PDF], Thompson explained to Gay Men's Health Crisis why he opposed Intro 1080, which widens the scope of existing racial profiling legislation to include gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, immigration status, and housing status, and allows citizens to file disparate impact lawsuits against the NYPD for discriminatory practices (monetary damages are prohibited under the legislation).
I oppose Intro 1080. I will reform Stop and Frisk as Mayor and protect the rights of New Yorkers. I believe that a new Mayor with a new Police Commissioner can implement policies to ensure that Stop and Frisk is only performed when there is reasonable suspicion that crime is afoot and a cop has reasonable suspicion that he/ she is danger or that the suspect has a weapon. Also, the City Council already has oversight over the NYPD and is free to call for hearings. More legislation is unnecessary.
Thompson also opposes the second portion of the Community Safety Act, which would create an Inspector General to oversee NYPD policy and suggest changes. Thompson, like other Democratic mayoral candidates, has praised NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly, even though stop-and-frisk skyrocketed under his tenure.
When Mayor Bloomberg pointed to crime statistics and said that minorities were stopped by the police "too little," Thompson released a statement calling the comments "outrageous and insulting…It shows a lack of understanding of what the practice of stop-and-frisk under his administration was supposed to have been about."
Yet Ray Kelly, the man responsible for the policy of using crime statistics to justify stop-and-frisks' disparate impact on minorities, essentially said the same thing a few months earlier: “African Americans are being understopped in relation to people being described as perpetrators of violent crime.”
When asked if he'd keep Kelly as commissioner, Thompson told NBC, "It's not about Ray Kelly. I think he's done an excellent job and I happen to personally like the commissioner."
We asked the Thompson campaign about these discrepancies, and for examples of the "policies" that he referred to that can reform stop-and-frisk, and have yet to receive a response.