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16 Notes

Something Has Gone Wrong With Michael Bloomberg

I don’t generally use this space to write long-winded complaints, but it’s Saturday and I’ve got extra coffee, so why not?

Yesterday, NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg went on the radio to extol the virtues of “stop and frisk”—a (Supreme Court-sanctioned) policy that allows the NYPD to stop “suspicious” people and then frisk them for officer safety. Bloomberg loves stop and frisk. Bloomberg has nude photos of stop and frisk in his phone and all over his computer. 

Every single jurisdiction in the United States participates in stops and frisks, but a significant amount of attention is paid to New York. This is not because New York is somehow more egregious in its effectuation of their stop and frisk policy than any other jurisdiction—it’s because New York has the best data. The city was forced to start compiling statistics from their stops (including the race and gender of detainees) as part of the settlement for a class-action lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the stop and frisk policy. 

And wow, look at that! It turns out the NYPD was stopping non-white New Yorkers at significantly higher rates than white New Yorkers. Fascinating. Yet Bloomberg, in his radio interview yesterday, insists this isn’t true. In fact, this dude literally said, “I think we disproportionately stop whites too much and minorities too little.”

"I think we disproportionately stop whites too much and minorities too little."

"I think we disproportionately stop whites too much and minorities too little."

"I think we disproportionately stop whites too much and minorities too little."

This is what the mayor of New York City thinks is true. Nobody show Michael Bloomberg this graphic, it will only make him sad:


The above graphic is from the NYCLU. Even though it relies on data from from 2011, the most recent data from 2012 is remarkably similar. What this shows is that, although white people make up nearly half of the overall population of New York City, they only get stopped by the police 13% of the time. 

And yet Bloomberg argues that white people are stopped too frequently. Not only that, he says, but the stop and frisk data does not expose any racial animus on the part of the police. In that same radio interview, Bloomberg stated, definitively, that “Nobody racially profiles.” NobodyNobody racially profiles?

What sort of tower of white male privilege must you live in to actually believe this is true? You cannot scream “nobody racially profiles” into a mountain of statistical evidence that confirms that everybody racially profiles

I guess to believe Bloomberg’s assertion that “nobody racially profiles,” you’d have to actually believe that non-white people commit more crimes than white people. This just isn’t true. Take marijuana arrests, for example:


Oh, my! As it turns out, white people actually use marijuana more frequently than black people do. Huh. So white people probably get stopped, frisked, and arrested more than black people?


(both graphs via the ACLU.)

Oh. No. Black people are, on average, four times more likely to be arrested for a marijuana offense than white people.

So, to recap: the man who is in charge of the NYPD—a police force that stops a disproportionate number of non-white people every year and does so largely based on race alone—thinks the cops stop white people too much and that not a single cop engages in racial profiling.

Weirdly, though, Bloomberg went on to say that his math checks out because cops should stop more people that fit the description provided by victims and witnesses of criminal activity. In his mind, this means more racial minorities. So, nobody racially profiles? Except when they match the racial description provided by an eyewitness. Then racial profiling is OK.

Perhaps the saddest part of all of this is that Bloomberg thinks that stop and frisk actually prevents crime. IT DOESN’T. STOP AND FRISK IS NOT AN EFFECTIVE CRIME FIGHTING POLICY. Bloomberg has said that stop and frisk  has gotten guns off the street and has lowered the murder rate in NYC. This is not an accurate statement of fact. The murder rate decreased before Bloomberg even took office, and most stops (over NINETY PERCENT) end with no guns found.

Bloomberg, if you want to support and continue stop and frisk, go ahead. But don’t hide behind this absurd lie that it’s unfair to white people and that it helps minorities. Own your shit. Because right now? Right now your racism is showing whether you acknowledge it or not.