Tuesday, July 20, 2010

To Catch A Thief

Budget Deadlock - Day 110

Albany Democrats, Paterson

Ignore Bloomberg and Kelly,

Limit Use of Stop and Frisk

In most places, state legislatures enact laws which assist local authorities to prevent crime or catch criminals.

New York State is an exception.

The New York State Senate and Assembly, with the signature of Governor Paterson, have enacted a law to prevent the Police Department from using information in its own database as leads in the investigation of violent crimes.

The bill was sponsored by Senator Eric Adams and Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries, who represent Brooklyn districts where robbery, assault and rape are serious problems. Adams, a retired police officer, once headed One Hundred Blacks in Law Enforcement Who Care. One would think that they would be particularly concerned with the apprehension of criminals who prey on their constituents. The predators, however, also include constituents.

Predictably, the New York Civil Liberties Union calls the database a "virtual police lineup of millions of completely innocent black and Latino New Yorkers". We are not surprised at the views of the NYCLU, who consistently oppose any measure considered helpful to the authorities. The group is not as concerned with the right of citizens not to be attacked, robbed or raped, in favor of the robbers and rapists’ interest in avoiding apprehension and punishment for their violent, sometimes fatal, assaults.

It depends on what kind of society one wants to live in. I value personal security, for myself, elderly parents, spouse and children. I would not mind being stopped and frisked if that would result in a safer community. Stop and frisk is usually employed for a reason, and that need not be criminal behavior at that instant. How do you know whether someone is carrying a gun unless you can check him and find out?

The Daily News and the Post have both editorialized on the subject. The News, on July 15, urged Governor Paterson to veto the bill in BE A CRIMESTOPPER, DAVE. Its lede: "The NYPD has an investigative tool that produced at least 170 arrests over the past 18 months, including for 17 murders, 36 robberies, 11 shootings and 7 rapes. It is a roaring public safety success -- and Gov. Paterson must guarantee its survival." Click here to read the well-reasoned and detailed editorial.

The Post, on July 16, in BEGGING FOR MORE CRIME, made this point: "[The bill's sponsors] pretend the database is racist -- or an intolerable infringement on privacy rights. In fact, the info it contains, and the steep drops in crime, have benefited minority communities in particular."

Mayor Bloomberg and Commissioner Ray Kelly, appealed to the governor for a veto. The mayor's comments were reported in an article by Celeste Katz and Adam Lisberg, BLOOMBERG: I DON’T LOSE ON STOP-AND-FRISK - CRIME VICTIMS DO. Click here to read an op-ed by Commissioner Kelly on the subject.

The Governor signed the bill on July 16, and issued a signing statement, along with comments by the bill's sponsors. We quote his words:

"In a democracy there are times when safety and liberty find themselves in conflict. From the Alien and Sedition Acts to the Japanese internment camps during WWII to the Patriot Act, we have experienced moments when liberty took a back seat. And each time, hindsight made our errors clear. Today, we have an opportunity to set the scales of safety and liberty in balance before we lose something we can’t get back…"

We did not know until reading Governor Paterson's words that, in his mind, the Patriot Act was an historic error. The United States Senate approved the Act, 98-1, on October 25, 2001, six weeks after 9/11. Was everyone but Russell Feingold mistaken? Perhaps the Governor or his amanuensis will enlighten us as to how "hindsight made our errors clear" with regard to the Patriot Act.

It is noteworthy that every one of the 32 Democratic state senators voted to prevent the use of the electronic stop and frisk database, while all 29 Republicans opposed restricting it. (To see how your State Senator voted, click here. For your Assemblymember, click here.) Also, all five candidates for the Democratic nomination for Attorney General supported the bill. If you can find a Democrat who agreed with Mayor Bloomberg, Commissioner Kelly, the News and the Post, please advise us.

Someday soon technology will alleviate the frisking part of the encounter. But that would not satisfy its opponents, who would inhibit any contact with potential assailants that did not result in an immediate arrest. In a way, the issue here depends on with which group the observer identifies: predator or prey. The great majority of New Yorkers are not predators, but many are afraid, to a greater or lesser extent, depending on where they live or how old they are, of becoming prey. These are the people whose views are not heard or listened to by most members of our dysfunctional Legislature.

StarQuest #690 07.20.2010 802 words

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