Stop and Frisk
The police department’s reliance on the use of “stop and frisk” to combat violence has resulted in the violation of hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers’ constitutional rights, particularly in Brooklyn. In 2011, the NYPD made 684,330 stops and seized 780 guns, demonstrating a modest success rate of 1.1 guns recovered per 1,000 stops.
The law states that the police can only stop a citizen if they have reasonable suspicion to believe that the citizen is involved in criminal activity. However, it appears that people are being stopped without reasonsable suspicion in order to demonstrate results in meetings at NYPD headquarters.
Many people in law enforcement know that Brooklyn jurors far too often will not convict in cases hinging on police testimony. I believe the lack of public trust comes from the current District Attorney’s failure to stand up against the abuses of “stop and frisk.” If citizens feel that police haphazardly stop them without legal justification and sometimes make up excuses for the stop, then why would those same citizens believe police officers who testify in court.
Mr. Hynes has stated, “it’s not my place to tell a 23-year-old rookie cop how to do his job because that is the job of the NYPD.” Surely, that logic is flawed; it is precisely the District Attorney who must instruct the police on the law of “stop and frisk,” and it is the District Attorney who must stand up to the police commissioner and city hall when the police do not follow the law.
There has been direct link between the abuse of “stop and frisk” and marijuana arrests in this city. When an illegal stop is conducted, citizens are asked to empty their pockets. If a citizen removes marijuana from his or her pocket, the police have been known to incorrectly charge the citizen with possession of marijuana in open view misdemeanor, despite that the only reason why the marijuana was in open view was because the police ordered the citizen to empty his or her pockets. In 2010, more than 50,000 New Yorkers were arrested for violating Penal Law 221.10 (the misdemeanor charge of possessing marijuana in open view), representing 15% of all arrests made by the NYPD that year. In 2011, taxpayers in NYC spent more than $75 million dollars on marijuana arrests alone. From 2005 to 2011, while there was an explosion in marijuana arrests, Brooklyn led the city in both homicides and shootings, particularly in the neighborhoods of Bed-Stuy, East New York, and Brownsville.
The District Attorney’s role is not only to enforce the law, but also to lead the debate in Albany and advocate for policy change in the area of criminal law. In a society where doctors dole out prescriptions for addictive painkillers like Oxycontin and Vicodin, why is it that marijuana is inaccessible to those in medical need? Contrary to Mr. Hynes’ position, I believe it is time to learn from the lessons of Prohibition and start to have an intelligent discussion on the legalization of marijuana in order to better allocate resources towards fighting violent crime.
Protecting Our Children
In most press cases, the current Brooklyn District Attorney discloses the names of defendants his office is prosecuting. However, he has had a long-standing policy of not disclosing the names of accused pedophiles from the ultra-Orthodox community, claiming that this policy protects victims from intimidation. Mr. Hynes has stated that the intimidation of witnesses in the ultra-Orthodox community is worse than in the world of organized crime. It was only after recent media pressure that Mr. Hynes revised his policy; the names of the accused in these cases will now be disclosed, but only if the victim consents. I wholeheartedly disagree with this policy, and question whether it is truly motivated by protecting victims, or rather aimed at maintaining the political support of certain members of this constituency.
The revised policy of disclosing a defendant’s name only if the victim consents is inconsistent with Mr. Hynes’ rationale for non-disclosure. If the ultra-Orthodox community is as dangerous as Mr. Hynes claims, then the revised policy will result in exposing those victims who have consented to disclosure to increased victimization and intimidation. The key to stopping witness intimidation is to prosecute those who intimidate witnesses.
Mr. Hynes’ policy does not protect our children. Publishing the names of pedophiles, which are already disclosed in public court documents once legal proceedings have commenced, serves as a deterrent to anyone thinking of committing these atrocious attacks on the most vulnerable segment of our population, our children. The pedophiles in this community do not deserve special protection; our children do.
As the next Brooklyn District Attorney, I will fight to protect our children, regardless of the political consequences of my actions.