Quinn skips an event for opponents of the NYPD’s use of stop-and-frisk

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George Gresham. (Azi Paybarah via flickr)
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City Council Speaker Christine Quinn was the only mayoral candidate to skip a press conference criticizing the New York Police Department's heavy use of stop-and-frisk. At that same press conference, the leader of a powerful labor union warned that the candidates would be judged on their level of opposition to the police policy, which the union condemns.

"Don't think we can ever support anyone that wants to be in the leadership of New York City if they are not speaking out against this policy of stop-and-frisk," said 1199 SEIU president George Gresham. "The way through City Hall will never be through stop-and-frisk."

An aide to Quinn said she had been invited but could not attend due to a scheduling conflict. Her aides distributed a statement at the event, attributable to the speaker, which said, "We need immediate changes to monitoring, supervision and accountability of this practice."

I asked Gresham about Quinn's outspokenness on this issue.

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"It could be better," he told me. "Let's just be clear. It could be better."

He also said, "This is an issue that is deeply important to our community and I would just say that it could be better at this point. She's still our friend [but] I'd be dishonest if I didn't say it couldn't be better. It could be better."

(I emailed Gresham's comments to Quinn's office, and a spokesman sent back a statement from her that said, "I am currently working hard on trying to enact real reform of stop question and frisk.")

Late last week the New York Police Department announced they were on pace to break last year's record for the number of stops-and-frisks conducted. 

"This program is a civil-rights crisis, a human rights crisis," said Ben Jealous, the president of the N.A.A.C.P.

He contrasted Mayor Michael Bloomberg's personal donation of $30 million to the Young Men's Initiative to help at-risk black and Latino men to the administration's support for the stop-and-frisk tactic that targets many of those same people. Jealous called it "a crisis for our country."

"It is a crime when 85 percent of the people stopped in a city are people of color," said Rev. Al Sharpton. "Stop-and-frisk is a violation of the civil rights laws of this country."

Sharpton also said, "Too often in our communities we are victimized by the cops and the robbers."

Public Advocate Bill de Blasio said City Hall has spread "lies" about how to judge the effectiveness of stop-and-frisk, and said, "The mayor was elected to make decisions like how much do we use stop-and-frisk. He was not elected to defer to One Police Plaza and not ask the question 'is it working or is it not working for our communities."

City Comptroller John Liu, the only candidate who has called for a total ban on stop-and-frisk, rather than a reform of the way it is used by the NYPD, said the high-use of stop-and-frisk "creates an atmosphere akin to martial law."

Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer reiterated his notion the parents of black and Latino young men are "worrying not about an interaction with a drug dealer, but a possible altercation with the police."

Former City Comptroller Bil Thompson said, "We have to end stop-and-frisk in New York City as we know it. It is wrong what is occurring right now."