Appearing before an African-American audience in Harlem on Saturday, Anthony D. Weiner criticized the Police Department’s stop-and-frisk policy as excessive and promised that, if he became mayor, he would not use the tactic “as a racial tool.” He did not say, however, precisely how he would otherwise change the policy.
The Democratic mayoral hopeful and former congressman spoke at the weekly rally hosted by the Rev. Al Sharpton at the headquarters of his organization, the National Action Network, an important stop for all Democratic candidates for mayor.
Mr. Sharpton, in introducing Mr. Weiner, said that he had not yet decided whom he would support, saying, “I hear a lot of noise, but I’m not hearing a lot of policy, and I’m not hearing a lot of vision.” Mr. Sharpton has criticized the only African-American candidate in the race, the former comptroller William C. Thompson Jr., for not being outspoken enough on the stop-and-frisk issue.
Mr. Weiner described the number of stops – some 533,000 last year — as excessive, and said the tactic should not be used “against particular communities,” a reference to the fact that the vast majority of those stopped are young black and Hispanic men. Yet he gave little indication of how he would put that policy into effect. He has said in the past that he does not support creating an inspector general for the Police Department, as a bill before the City Council would do, though he did not bring up that stance on Saturday.
Mr. Weiner also suggested that there were circumstances where stops were justified.
“If there is a drug dealer in the yard of a public housing project, and he’s acting suspicious, and we’re getting calls to the police, and he’s showing signs that there’s reason to believe he’s doing something wrong, I want a police officer to tap that fellow on the shoulder, and if he’s a drug dealer I want him arrested and thrown out of the community — I want that to happen,” he said.
But “I believe you can fight crime without saying to police officers, ‘go out and get hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of stops,’” he said.
“And make no mistake: When you have a situation where 97, 98, 99 percent of the stops are resulting in no crime, no gun, no — no police report being submitted beyond just the 250 saying, ‘I stopped the guy,’ you’re a bad cop,” Mr. Weiner said, to applause from the audience. “You’re not doing your job.” (A 250 refers to the form that a police officer fills out after stopping someone. In fact, 12 percent of stops resulted in an arrest or summons, although guns were found in less than 0.2 percent of stops.)
“And if you have that many stops, and you’re not producing, or you’re not finding guns and other things, your supervisor, the sergeant, is a bad supervisor,” Mr. Weiner continued, raising his voice and shaking his finger. “And if that supervisor is allowing that to go on, you have a bad precinct captain. And if that captain is allowing it to go on, you have a bad commissioner, who’s not doing his job.”
“Now I like Ray Kelly, I think he’s a decent man,” he went on quickly. “But at a certain point you have to recognize, this is a policy of the Police Department to stop hundreds and hundreds, and hundreds of thousands of people as their way of trying to stop crime. Well, ladies and gentlemen, I don’t want to stop police officers from doing their job, I want to help them do their job better. And that means not using stop-and-frisk as a racial tool, and that’s what I will do if I’m mayor.”
He ended by referring to his son, Jordan.
“I have a 17-month-old at home,” he said. “He lives a very nice life. I can say with some certainty, although he might get in trouble –” He paused and added, to laughter, “Being my son, I have a feeling he might.”
“He might get in some trouble,” he continued, “but I can tell you this: The chances of Jordan Zane Weiner getting stopped by a police officer when he’s 17 walking down the street are virtually zero, virtually zero.”
“Right!” some members of the audience shouted.
“He is going to be going to school with African-American kids, with Hispanic kids, with children of color, where he is going to be walking down the same street,” Mr. Weiner continued. “I want his buddies, his friends, from wherever they’re from, to say to each other, ‘Boy, am I glad that we made some smart decisions in 2013 — now neither one of us gets stopped just for walking down the street.’”
Mr. Sharpton, in introducing Mr. Weiner, dismissed the scandal that forced him to resign from Congress, after he was found to be exchanging sexually explicit messages with young women over Twitter. But Mr. Sharpton stumbled in introducing him, describing him as “the candidate for mayor, Congress-, ex-Congressman Anthony Weiner.”