Will Mayor Bloomberg Have George Wallace Epiphany?

[Stop-and-Frisk: Op-Ed]

Wallace: “Segregation today, Segregation tomorrow, Segregation forever.” Then he saw the light

Someone close to Mayor Michael Bloomberg should pull him aside and let him know that by continuously convening press conferences where he announces that Blacks are under-stopped and that Whites are over-stopped he looks and sounds eerily like George Wallace, standing on the steps of the Alabama State capitol in 1962 declaring, “Segregation today, Segregation tomorrow, Segregation forever.”

The Mayor’s proclamations ignore the fact that among the more than 200,000 Blacks who are stopped annually (254,522 last year), since 2005, almost none of them are guilty of a serious crime or even a minor criminal infraction; and that, for most years, among the substantially fewer Whites who are stopped, there is a greater proportion of weapons found, arrests made and summons issued when Whites are frisked. This is based on the New York Police Department’s own statistics.

Even when the department commissioned an analysis in 2007, the researcher reported a 70% greater likelihood of finding weapons among Whites stopped and frisked than among Blacks and Latinos. So why is the Mayor suggesting that fewer Whites be stopped?

The Mayor, and often the police commissioner, talk about Blacks, Latinos and Whites as if they are groups in which all members act the same. In their view, Blacks and Latinos deserve to be stopped.  Whites don’t.  This is classic racism at its worse.

It took George Wallace becoming physically disabled and being cared for by an African American nurse to realize that human beings are individuals regardless of their color, and that each deserves to be judged by his or her personal character and actions, not by stereotypes and statistics about a relatively few strangers with similar skin-tone.

Since he hasn’t been convinced by statistics showing that nearly 90 percent of people who are stopped are innocent, is it possible for Michael Bloomberg to have a George Wallace epiphany about the behavioral diversity among the more than 8 million people who live in New York City, or is this a lost cause?


Delores Jones-Brown is Professor of Law, Police Science and Criminal Justice Administration At John Jay College of Criminal Justice, City University of New York & Faculty Research Fellow, John Jay College Center on Race, Crime and Justice



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