Fingerprinting NYCHA Folks: Mayor Bloomberg Versus Black And Latino Pre-Convicts

The Mayor as PreCog?

[Black Star News Editorial]

Mayor Michael Bloomberg wants to fingerprint residents who live in so-called “housing projects” operated by the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) to weed out the good guys from the bad guys.

Yes, that’s what the mayor said he’d like to do while discussing crime in the NYCHA houses on a radio show interview. His remarks come just four days after U.S. District Court Judge Shira A. Scheindlin ruled that Stop-and-Frisk, another favorite Bloomberg strategy, was “unconstitutional” and was “indirect racial profiling.”

The judge’s ruling meant Bloomberg’s Administration had lost the Floyd v New York case; a class action lawsuit on behalf of those stopped-and-frisked by the NYPD through the years.

Under Bloomberg’s and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly’s policing regime, the New York Police Department officers are allowed to stop Black and Latino males and to search them. The police then falsely claim some form of probable cause in all instances when in fact there is non in most cases; 90% of the time the Stops-and-Frisk turn out to be false.

Over the past 10 years at least 5 million New Yorkers have been stopped. Almost 90% are Black and Latino. In nine out of 10 cases the individuals stopped were not arrested or issued summons because they had done nothing wrong, and they had no weapons when stopped, and no contraband.

Even with such an abysmal batting average Mayor Bloomberg and Commissioner Kelly claim the unconstitutional procedure, singling out people of color for unlawful detention and searches, was “saving lives.” How could it save lives when it was not accomplishing its stated purpose which was to seize weapons from the streets?

After Judge Scheindlin’s ruling on Monday, the mayor arrogantly claimed the NYPD would defy the judge and continue Stop-and-Frisk. In other words, racial profiling will continue in New York at least through January when Bloomberg’s successor is sworn into office. And presuming it’s not Christine Quinn who plans to retain Kelly.

It’s this same anti-Constitutional mindset when it comes to people of Color that let Bloomberg disclose during the radio interview, his Pre-Convict or “Pre-Con” and “Pre-Crime” fighting strategy for the so-called projects.

Residents of, and visitors to, NYCHA houses have sued New York City for being wrongfully arrested during police sweeps.  Bloomberg argues that 20% of the City’s crime occur in the NYCHA buildings. During the interview the questioner interjects to ask Bloomberg whether giving NYCHA residents swipe cards for access to the buildings had been considered. In response, Bloomberg says: “What we really should have is finger printing to get in.”

New York’s leading political figures reacted swiftly to Bloomberg’s remarks:

“The Mayor’s comments that New Yorkers who enter public housing should be fingerprinted is outrageous and insulting, and shows just how out of touch this administration has become,” said Public Advocate and Democratic candidate for mayor Bill de Blasio, who has recently surged ahead of his rivals. ” Once again, Mayor Bloomberg has resorted to presuming innocent people are guilty simply because they happen to live in certain areas, and in doing so he is stigmatizing entire communities.  Fingerprinting people just for entering NYCHA buildings will achieve little more than to further embitter tens of thousands of innocent people who have done nothing wrong, and who have earned the suspicion of the police for their trouble.”

De Blasio says the ban on racial profiling passed by the New York City Council and vetoed by Mayor Bloomberg would address the bias-based profiling of people based on housing status.  De Blasio  supports both a ban on racial profiling and an independent Inspector General at the NYPD.  “Mayor Bloomberg needs to apologize for these remarks, and he should make good on ideas that would actually improve safety, like installing the security cameras tenants have repeatedly demanded and this administration has failed to provide,” de Blasio added.

“Mayor Bloomberg’s off-hand proposal to fingerprint all NYCHA residents treats public-housing residents as if they were criminals. If he were serious about building security, he would press NYCHA to install more security cameras, which are long overdue,” said New York City Comptroller and Mayoral contender John Liu, who’s the only candidate to say he would ban Stop-and-Frisk. “Also, given the Administration’s lousy record on technology, a program to install fingerprint scanners in NYCHA housing could very well become another boondoggle like the scandal-plagued CityTime. What a terrible idea.”

“Just as all New Yorkers should be able to walk the streets without being profiled by Stop-and-Frisk, so they should be able to enter their building or visit family and friends without being fingerprinted. While NYCHA has a clear interest in maintaining safe communities, fingerprinting is in direct opposition to everything our country stands for as a free society and would only further divide our communities,” added Manhattan Borough President and Comptroller candidate Scott Stringer.

The NAACP’s Legal Defense and Educational Fund (LDF) also weighed in:

“Mayor Bloomberg’s derogatory statements about public housing residents are an outrage,” said Sherrilyn Ifill, LDF’s President and Director-Counsel.  “Families live in public housing apartments, not criminals.  Public housing residents, as well as their friends and family members visiting them, deserve the same level of respect from our Mayor as any other New York City resident.  They should not be treated like prisoners in their own homes.”

The LDF, a separate entity from the NAACP, filed the lawsuit Davis v. City of New York, on behalf of plaintiffs challenging the NYPD’s policy and practice of unlawfully stopping and arresting public housing residents and their guests for trespassing.

It’s clear that even after 12 years — or perhaps because of the 12 years — in office, Bloomberg just doesn’t get it even in his waning months as mayor.

He can’t relate to humanbeings who don’t belong in his socio-economic circles. All he sees are statistics — like the numbers he monitored on his Bloomberg terminals that helped him build his fortune. There are “good” and “bad” stats in business; that’s how Bloomberg evaluates NYCHA folks.

Crime is high in low-income neighborhoods. Bloomberg’s and Kelly’s solution? Stop-and-Frisk every Black male and Latino male in those neighborhoods.

Crime is high in low-income NYCHA houses. Bloomberg’s and Kelly’s solution? Fingerprint every Black male and Latino male in those houses.

When was the last time Bloomberg bothered to look at the unemployment stats and the poverty levels in the low-income neighborhoods and houses? As far as Mayor Bloomberg is concerned that’s some else’s problem.

This is remarkable because on a national level, President Obama’s re-election was predicated on his ability to turn the economy around, to lower unemployment, and to create jobs.

Why should it be any different for mayors of large cities such as New York?

Rather than fighting the abysmal unemployment levels and poverty that breeds some of the crime, Bloomberg just wants to arrest and lock up the symptoms of the problem and in his quest doesn’t care that 90% of Black and Latino males stopped are completely innocent.

So much for the Constitution right?



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