Commentary Magazine


The NYC Mayoral Election and Public Safety

In one of its several reaction stories on yesterday’s irredeemably shoddy judicial ruling against the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk tactic, the New York Times calls attention to the sudden relevance of the mayoral candidates to this court case. The administration of Michael Bloomberg is appealing the ruling, but the Times points out that it is likely Bloomberg’s term in office will end before the appeals process does. So the Times explains how various New York mayoral candidates would handle it.

The Republican candidates, Joseph Lhota and John Catsimatidis, both said they would continue Bloomberg’s fight to keep the city’s minority neighborhoods safe. That was in stark contrast to the Democratic candidates, who seemed to be in general agreement that confused judicial activists, instead of criminal justice experts or concerns for public safety, should drive police policy. They seem worried, in fact, that the city might win its appeal and thus rather than be advocates of the city and its residents, they want to stop the process in its tracks:

Four Democrats vying to succeed Mr. Bloomberg pledged on Monday to overhaul the stop-and-frisk tactic and end the city’s appeal of the decision if elected: Bill de Blasio, the public advocate; John C. Liu, the city comptroller; Christine C. Quinn, the City Council speaker; and William C. Thompson Jr., a former city comptroller….

While many of the Democratic candidates have said they would work to decrease the frequency of stops, they have not said exactly how they would overhaul the stop-and-frisk practice.

The exception is Mr. Liu, who has called for banning the tactic entirely.

That follows the phenomenon I wrote about yesterday, in which liberal demagogues assail the police but admit to not having any constructive alternative ideas. It may sound dangerous to advocate for tearing down the system of public safety without so much as a backup plan for what replaces it, but all the Democratic candidates appear to believe the current weakness of the city’s Republican Party means that Democrats can make the breakdown of the social order their election platform and still win.

Heather Mac Donald writes today in the New York Post that the anti-NYPD campaign requires a denial of observable reality. As if on cue to confirm Mac Donald’s framing, the Times publishes a “news analysis” today as well, which seeks to connect the stop-and-frisk ruling and the recent announcement by Attorney General Eric Holder that federal prosecutors would not pursue mandatory minimum sentences for certain drug offenses:

Two decisions Monday, one by a federal judge in New York and the other by Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., were powerful signals that the pendulum has swung away from the tough-on-crime policies of a generation ago. Those policies have been denounced as discriminatory and responsible for explosive growth in the prison population.

But that is either completely wrong or a convenient sleight of hand to fool the reader into buying the fabricated connection. It’s true that mandatory minimums prevent the justice system from adapting to the times and from using discretion and judgment in the pursuit of criminals. There has been bipartisan support for reforming or suspending mandatory minimums, and the process certainly has resulted in the disproportionate incarceration of minority males.

But stop-and-frisk does not belong in that category. The tactic seeks to prevent crimes and therefore to prevent incarceration. Not only are minorities in the city safer because of stop-and-frisk, but the proactive approach to crime prevention is a useful tool in seeking to reduce the prison population. Indeed, as I noted yesterday, Judge Shira Scheindlin’s ridiculous ruling was based in part on the fact that the police were arresting so few of the men subject to stops.

It was suspicious, Scheindlin claimed, that the police didn’t seem to be arresting anyone. That, of course, is the point: stop-and-frisk gets illegal guns off the street and suppresses criminal activity. If you can prevent violent crime, there is no need to arrest anyone for those nonexistent crimes. It is absurd, then, for the Times to pair Scheindlin’s ruling with mandatory minimums. Scheindlin’s ruling makes it far more likely that incarceration will increase.

Scheindlin’s idea of policing–shared, according to the Times, by the Democratic candidates–would take young males out of the local economy, break up families, and bring increases in crime. Any resulting middle-class flight would hurt the city’s tax base and thus the services that the city’s poor rely on, as well as drive up prices in the receiving neighborhoods, further pricing the non-wealthy out of the city. It’s a cycle New York, like the country’s other major cities, has experienced before. And it’s a cycle that liberal judicial activists and the city’s Democratic mayoral candidates are apparently ready to inflict on the city once again.

Join the discussion…

Are you a subscriber? Log in to comment »

Not a subscriber? Join the discussion today, subscribe to Commentary »

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This

Share This

Share this post with your friends!

Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor to our site, you are allowed 8 free articles this month.
This is your first of 8 free articles.

If you are already a digital subscriber, log in here »

Print subscriber? For free access to the website and iPad, register here »

To subscribe, click here to see our subscription offers »

Please note this is an advertisement skip this ad
Clearly, you have a passion for ideas.
Subscribe today for unlimited digital access to the publication that shapes the minds of the people who shape our world.
Get for just
Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor, you are allowed 8 free articles.
This is your first article.
You have read of 8 free articles this month.
for full access to
Digital subscriber?
Print subscriber? Get free access »
Call to subscribe: 1-800-829-6270
You can also subscribe
on your computer at
Don't have a log in?
Enter you email address and password below. A confirmation email will be sent to the email address that you provide.