Here we go again … two police shootings of African-Americans in the past few days. One man was unarmed, and it is as yet unclear whether the other was carrying a book or a gun. Mr. Keith Lamont Scott in Charlotte, North Carolina was shot by police officers on Tuesday, 20 September. There are conflicting stories about the event, and in the interest of truth, I will not comment further at this time. Mr. Terence Crutcher was shot and killed by police officer Betty Shelby on Friday, 16 September, in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Mr. Crutcher was unarmed. I will comment further on both of these stories in a future post, when details are more clear.
Predictably, both candidates for president had something to say. First, Hillary Clinton’s response:
“Keith Lamont Scott. Terence Crutcher. Too many others. This has got to end. How many times do we have to see this in our country? In Tulsa, an unarmed man with his hands in the air. This is just unbearable. And it needs to be intolerable. Maybe I can, by speaking directly to white people, say, look, this is not who we are. We have got to do everything possible to improve policing, to go right at implicit bias.”
Next, Donald Trump’s response:
“The situations in Tulsa and Charlotte are tragic. We must come together to make America safe again. Hopefully the violence & unrest in Charlotte will come to an immediate end. To those injured, get well soon. We need unity & leadership.”
But then, during a Fox News Town Hall on Wednesday (09/21), in front of a predominantly white audience, Trump was asked what he would do to stem violence in the black community. Trump said “One of the things I’d do, is I would do stop-and-frisk. I think you have to. We did it in New York, it worked incredibly well1 and you have to be proactive and, you know, you really help people sort of change their mind automatically. In New York City it was so incredible, the way it worked.” The largely white audience erupted into applause.
“The idea of creating a national stop-and-frisk policy is the equivalent of advancing martial law and is beyond the constitutional power of the presidency,” – Marc H. Morial, president of the National Urban League.
I do not pretend to know what the answer to the problem is, but I do know that stop-and-frisk is not the answer. It is disproportionately used in minority communities almost everywhere it has been used. When communities feel targeted by police, their trust in police declines, tensions rise and relationships between citizens and officers deteriorate.
For Donald Trump, a man who seeks the highest office in the nation, to even suggest using such a discriminatory form of policing just days after two fatal shootings of African-Americans by police is beyond poor taste, is beyond political rhetoric. It is blatantly racist. Most of us already realize that Trump is a racist, but if you ever had doubts, this should confirm his bigotry in no uncertain terms. I heard an African-American woman interviewed on CNN this morning who said, in essence, that she realizes he is a racist, but that it did not matter to her … she would vote for him because he promises jobs. Yes, he promises jobs, but there is no indication how he would fulfill that promise, nor what types of jobs he would bring. And yes, he promises to bring racism and discrimination right back to the levels we saw in the 1950s. Fortunately, the vast majority of African-Americans are smarter than the woman on CNN, as at last count, only 2% supported Trump, while the other 98% support Clinton.
And as I write this post (Wednesday night), this banner just passed across my screen:
“Gunfire killed a man in Charlotte on the second night of protests over the fatal police shooting of a black man”
Where does it end? Again, I do not have the answers, but I certainly recognize a wrong answer, a horrible answer, when I hear it. And use of discriminatory practices such as stop-and-frisk is a wrong and horrible answer.
1 Civil liberties groups have pilloried the practice, and in August 2013 a federal judge ruled that the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk policy violated the constitutional rights of minorities in New York. The judge didn’t order an outright ban, but called for reform of the policy and outside oversight. The city has appealed.
“The United States Constitution guarantees the rights of all Americans, and the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York already ruled in 2013 that stop-and-frisk, as previously practiced in New York, was unconstitutional,” said Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Maryland. “These policies erode trust between law enforcement officers and the communities they serve. Plus, they have proven to be ineffective.”
A November 2013 report from the New York attorney general revealed just 3% of stop-and-frisk stops led to convictions between 2009 and 2012. And in more than 5 million stops between 2002 and 2013, police recovered guns less than 0.02% of the time, according to police department data compiled by the New York Civil Liberties Union in a 2014 report.