San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee is proposing that the city, which is reputed to be one of the most liberal in the country, adopt a policy that, in other places, has proven itself to be blatantly racist, not to mention a clear violation of civil rights.
Lee, a former civil rights attorney who has obviously forgotten his past, is thinking of implementing a “Stop and Frisk” policy similar to the one in two East Coast cities: New York and Philadelphia. That policy, which allows police to stop and frisk people suspected of carrying weapons, is really nothing more than an exercise in something this country doesn’t need more of -- racial profiling. Most of those stopped in the Big Apple and the City of Brotherly Love in the wake of the implementation of that policy have been Black or Latino.
According to a report by the New York Civil Liberties Union, in New York in 2011, Blacks accounted for 52.9% and Latinos 33.7% of the 685,724 stops conducted by police that year. Whites accounted for only 9.3% of the stops. Most of those stopped had done absolutely nothing wrong.
Frisks were conducted in 381,704 of those stops, mostly among Blacks and Latinos, of course. Weapons were found in a mere 1.9%. A quick glance at the stats for the entire 10 years that Stop and Frisk has been a policy in New York shows similar results. The same two groups of people have been targeted year after year.
How well I remember a time when Stop and Frisk-type laws were used against gay men. In the early 70s, my hometown of Philadelphia had a policy of allowing cops to stop groups of gay men (three or more, if I recall) walking down the street together at night in what we called the "gay ghetto" area. If they didn't disperse, they could be hauled off to jail. Any group of three men or more walking certain streets was considered to be gay and therefore illegal. I got stopped on more than one occasion.
Alan Schlosser, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California, told the SF Chronicle: “San Francisco for years has tried to develop...policies that reduce radical profiling. This just seems like a total reverse of that.”
Even San Francisco’s Police Chief Greg Suhr, an appointee of Lee, doesn’t believe it’s “the best way to do business here.” Added the city's top cop, "We have no interest in racially profiling here."
What would possess Ed Lee to even consider such an obviously racist policy? Apparently a conversation with New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. A billionaire, Bloomberg opposes the decriminalization of marijuana and favors big-time development, tax breaks for big corporations, and DNA and fingerprint technology to keep track of the citizens of this country. Hardly a role model for a "progressive" mayor.
Too bad Lee didn’t have a conversation with the New York Civil Liberties Union instead. Or some of the thousands of Black and Latino men in New York and Philadelphia who have been unjustly stopped and frisked.
Lee has to understand one thing: San Francisco is not going to tolerate Stop and Frisk.