Last week, after much debate, Governor Paterson signed legislation that stopped the NYPD from accumulating and keeping the controversial stop-and-frisk database that has existed for nearly a decade. Mayor Bloomberg and NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly adamantly argued for its effectiveness in crime prevention, with Bloomberg saying, "We didn't lose. The people who are going to lose are the victims...The proponents of the bill are in neighborhoods where crime is high, and we're trying desperately to protect the people who live in those communities—and they've just taken away one of the tools."
But the stop-and frisk-database has another pushy advocate who is neither a police official nor a crime-fighter: The NY Post! The beloved tabloid has published two related stories since the legislation passed, both focusing on the 10% of cases where the database was cited as having been useful, painting a black and white portrait of effective policing that leaves out any discussion of the complexities of the issue, such as the fact that 87% of those stopped are black or Latino.
But the proof is in the anecdotal pudding to them in citing the case of Ricardo Salinas, a 33-year-old cook who was robbed and killed nearly four years ago by three teens in Staten Island. Detectives located the killers the next day because patrol cops had detained them the night of the September 2, 2006 crime and entered their names on the stop and frisk register. Salinas' widow said, "The stop-and-frisk law definitely helped in capturing the men responsible for killing my husband...I was told this kind of crime never gets solved or takes a lot of time to get solved."
State Senator Martin Golden, a former NYPD cop, thinks the new law jeopardizes the safety of New Yorkers who don't remember their history lessons: "I guess they forgot the 1970s and the 1980s, when no one wanted to come to New York and when families were afraid to ride the subway, walk the streets and enjoy living in the greatest city in the world," said Golden. Strangely, the most reasonable person in this whole debate seems like Gov. Paterson, who said the "warehousing of the personal data of innocent people" only belongs in a police state: "Maybe it might work in Bosnia. Maybe that might work in Somalia. Maybe that might have worked in the Soviet Union or in '1984.' But we can't allow it to happen here."