Will Oakland Adopt New York-style “Stop and Frisk” Policy?

Kitty Kelly Epstein

By Kitty Kelly Epstein Oakland city officials announced last week that they plan to hire William Bratton as a consultant to the Oakland Police Department. He is the man who pushed New York City and Los Angeles to use “stop and frisk,” a policy called “racial profiling” by a host of experts and opposed by critics ranging from a federal judge to the ACLU, the New York SEIU, and the NAACP. According to a recent poll a majority of New Yorkers do not support the policy, including 75 percent of African-American New Yorkers. Here are some questions I suggest the City Council should ask City Administrator Deanna Santana before they consider spending  a total of nearly half-a million of our tax dollars to employ Bratton’s firm: How do you respond to the fact that 700,000  mostly Black and Latino New Yorkers are stopped and frisked every year under Mr. Bratton’s policy, even though 90 percent are not even accused of a crime, let alone convicted of one.? Fifty-two percent of New Yorkers are Black and Latino, but 87 percent of those stopped and frisked in the first three months of this year were Black and Latino.  Given that Oakland is already under a federal court order to stop racial profiling, what do you think of these statistics? How do you explain that more New Yorkers oppose than support this supposedly “effective” policy, according to a recent university-sponsored poll? If you are not hiring Mr. Bratton to implement the only thing he is known for, “stop and frisk,” why do you propose to hire him? How do you explain that crime went down last year in New York City, the same year when the number of stop and frisks also declined? Here’s an alternative proposal.  Use the $250,000 – $350,000 dollars you propose to throw away on consultants to hire several of the talented Latino and African-American Oaklanders who are currently unemployed to do the following: Revive the policies that Oakland used to reduce its own homicide rate by 40 percent between 2006 and 2011; Help the city and its contractors to actually carry out the employment  of Oaklanders on the construction projects our tax dollars are paying for,  which in recent years have employed an astonishing total of only 5 percent African-American journeymen; Carry out some of the excellent proposals made by a PUEBLO-initiated group last year that involved reaching out to communities most affected by violence and asking their thoughts on causes and solutions for these problems. (Sources for this article include interviews with residents of New York and Philadelphia; statistics published by the City of Oakland, as well as published articles in the L.A. Times and the Huffington Post.) Kitty Kelly Epstein is an educator, author of “Organizing to Change a City” (a book about Oakland published in 2012 by Peter Lang Publishers), and an activist dialoguing with residents about the city’s policies at Do 4 Self Bookstore and Internet Lounge, 5272 Foothill Blvd. in Oakland, Jan. 12, 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.
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