New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, currently struggling to gain a foothold in Republican presidential-primary polls, decided to throw some red meat to the conservative base in a Tuesday appearance on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, stating that if he were mayor of New York City, he would reinstate the controversial stop-and-frisk law within five minutes of taking office.
The comment was in response to comments by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio echoing New York City Police Department reports showing that this is the safest summer the city has had in 25 years. But even though crime has reportedly dropped during the summer months, the murder rate in the city over the past year remains high, something that Christie feels a little racist policing will cure.
“Stop and frisk would be back in about five minutes,” Christie said. “We would empower the police and not undercut them. If police officers step over the line, they deserve to be taken care of and prosecuted, but this guy, this mayor [Bill de Blasio], presumes guilt on the part of the police officer before anything happens.”
Here’s the thing: The NYPD has proved time and time and time again that the only line it respects is the blue one. In 2013, U.S. District Court Judge Shira Scheindlin ruled stop and frisk to be unconstitutional because it led to the systemic discrimination of black and Latino citizens. Between 2004 and 2012, 10 percent of stop-and-frisk stops were of whites; 84 percent were of blacks and Latinos. As previously reported by The Root, in 2014, 83 percent of New York City residents stopped under stop and frisk were black or Latino, with just 12 percent of them white. Those numbers have held true through the first two quarters of 2015.
Stop and frisk, in and of itself, is crossing the line. It also does not lead to any significant reduction in crime.
In 2013 the New York State Attorney General’s Office released an in-depth analysis of the city’s stop-and-frisk policies (pdf), reporting that only 1.5 percent of stop-and-frisk stops have resulted in a jail or prison sentence. And of those, only 0.1 percent involved convictions for a violent crime.
“My office’s analysis of the city’s stop-and-frisk practices has broad implications for law enforcement, both in New York City and across the state,” Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said in a statement at the time. “It’s our hope that this report—the first of its kind—will advance the discussion about how to fight crime without overburdening our institutions or violating equal justice under the law.”
It’s also important to note that when city police officers took their batons and went home after the killing of two officers in Brooklyn—which they falsely claimed was encouraged by de Blasio’s “anti-police sentiment”—the arrest rates plummeted, while murders in New York City continued their steady decline to the lowest numbers the city had seen since 1963.
Maybe Christie missed that memo or, because of his dismal poll numbers, he feels he’s better off ignoring them. He doesn’t have a rich daddy, like Jeb Bush; nor has he been able to appeal to Bible thumpers in the Deep South the way Donald Trump has by being as bigoted as humanly possible. This leaves Christie strategically positioning himself as far right as he can and still be considered electable in an increasingly diversifying country. It’s a spineless, transparent move for someone who prides himself on being Jersey tough.
But then again, spineless, transparent moves that perpetuate systemic racism are the American way.
Christie is using his meager political capital to traffic in fear of the black body, something that resonates with many conservatives who believe that people of color are innately criminal and in need of hyperpolicing so that white Americans can be safe. This is not a new tactic. Protecting white America by profiling black America has been at the root of policing in this country since the days of slave patrols.
If the governor from New Jersey is really serious about reducing crime, he might be better-served implementing stop and frisk in affluent white neighborhoods, colleges and universities, where drug use is consistently high, or profiling lone white men, who are more likely to be serial killers and to shoot up churches and movie theaters.
But then he’d have to reckon with the reality that there are criminals terrorizing this country who look a lot like the man staring back at him in the mirror.