Bloomberg accuses the Times and NYCLU of a racial double standard

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Mayor Michael Bloomberg today accused the New York Times and civil-liberties activists of a form of racial bias, for focusing criticism on the NYPD's stop-and-frisk program instead of on shooting victims, who are predominantly black and Latino.

In a speech at the New York Police Department headquarters this morning, Bloomberg singled out the case of 17-year-old Alphonza Bryant, who was "shot and killed while standing with friends near his home" in the Bronx.

Bloomberg said Bryant was not the intended target of the alleged shooter, and "just a victim of too many guns on our streets. But after his murder, no outrage from the Center for Constitutional Rights, or the NYCLU [New York Civil Liberties Union]. There was not a mention of his murder in our papers, our paper of record, the New York Times. 'All the news that's fit to print' did not include the murder of 17-year-old Alfonso Bryant. Do you think that if a white 17-year-old prep student from Manhattan had been murdered, the Times would have ignored it? Me neither."

The mayor said that four days after Bryant's "murder went unreported by the Times, the paper published another editorial attacking stop, question and frisk."

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A Times op-ed columnist did in fact write about Bryant's death, (on-line only, as part of a compendium) following, and citing coverage of the shooting in the Daily News, but that was dismissed by Bloomberg's aides as inadequate.

"[C]iting the Daily News coverage on line doesn't exactly cut it," Bloomberg's senior adviser, Howard Wolfson wrote on Twitter.

A spokesperson for the Times did not immediately have a comment.

The speech at One Police Plaza this morning was also an assault on Bloombeg's would-be Democratic successors, all of whom favor reducing the overall number of stop-and-frisks conducted by the NYPD. (Comptroller John Liu favors abolishing the tactic entirely.)

The mayor also criticized a bill he said would unfairly restrict police officers from using racial information to narrow their search for suspects, and potentially expose officers to litigation "for doing their jobs."

Bloomberg gave a hypothetical example: If a suspect reported he or she was assaulted by "a 20-something-year-old white man with a blue windbreaker" then "the officer under this bill could only use the color of the windbreaker as a lead."

And "the officer would have to stop 80-year-old black women if they were wearing blue windbreakers," the mayor said.

The bill in question is opposed by City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and former comptroller Bill Thompson. Quinn has said that she will nevertheless allow the bill to be voted on in the City Council, where it is expected to pass, possibly with enough votes to override an expected mayoral veto.

The mayor said critics of the NYPD who accuse the agency of racial profiling were "irrational" for comparing the ethnicity of suspects stopped to their percentage of the general population. The mayor said it was more logical to compare the suspects stopped to the people described as assailants by victims. 

Bloomberg has 245 days left, and is intent on preserving as much of his public safety agenda as possible.

He criticized a call to create an inspector general's office to oversee NYPD policy and suggested it would weaken the city's ability to fight terrorism. The mayor said other counter-terorrism agencies that work with the NYPD "might be less willing to share information with us if they were concerned it could be released" to an I.G. or the City Council.

"God forbid terrorists succeed in striking our city because of politically driven law undermines that undermines the NYPD's intelligence-gathering efforts," he said.

UPDATE: Independence Party mayoral candidate Adolfo Carrion, Jr., says he agrees with Bloomberg's criticism of the Times and others for not paying more attention to shooting victims like Bryant. It "points to the arrogance of the limousine liberal in American politics," Carrion said in an interview. "If the kid was from an upper-class family in New York City, it would have been on the cover of the paper."

Carrion said he believes the NYPD can be effective in fighting crime while at the same time reducing the number of stop-and-frisks. But he agreed with Bloomberg's concern about not blocking the NYPD's surveillance and intelligence-gathering operations. At a recent mayoral forum with Democratic candidates, Carrion stood apart in saying he was open to using drones to help the department gather information.

Democratic candidate Sal Albanese, a former councilman, said his primary opponents were "living on another planet" and "have flip-flopped and engaged in political theater in regard to the inspector general, an undemocratic and expensive position that would do nothing to protect civil liberties and do everything to stand in the way of smart policing."

Bill Thompson and John Liu initially supported the inspector general bill. Thompson now opposes the current version of it and wants to see an I.G. that reports to the police commissioner, which the bill's sponsors find objectionable. Liu now opposes the bill for not going far enough to police the police.

UPDATE>: The Times responds: “Mayor Bloomberg is trying to deflect criticism of the City’s stop-and-frisk practice by accusing The New York Times of bias. Among those critical of the practice is The New York Times editorial board, which is separate from the news side of the newspaper. The Times aggressively covers violence in the city's neighborhoods, and to select one murder as evidence to the contrary is disingenuous. His claim of racial bias is absurd.”

UPDATE: In a statement, Thompson said, "The current legislation on racial profiling and an Inspector General astride the Police Department are the wrong solutions to the problem" and that "The right solution is a new mayor."