April 30, 2013The following are Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg's remarks as delivered this morning at One Police Plaza:
“Ray, thank you, and thank you for those kind words. Let me just start by saying my contributions as Mayor are not to run the Police Department, it is to pick the right people to do that, to make sure they have the resources and to have their backs when the going gets tough.
“I started this process when I was first elected. I looked around this world for the person that I thought could best keep our city safe – both on the streets and from terrorism – a person that could best represent us to the people of New York City, to the State of New York and to the country and to the world. I found that person in Ray Kelly. I made the right choice. He has made the right choices in all of you who are here, and you deserve an awful lot of the credit.
“It’s always an honor to address what I would argue, and I think most people would say, the finest Police Department in the world, and let me begin by saying something that you don’t hear often enough: Thank you.
“Thank you for your relentless dedication to the people of New York City, and thank you for coming to work each day determined to make our city an even safer place.
“The first third of 2013 ends today – and I’m happy to say we are off to an extraordinary start. After 2012, when our city set a new record low for homicides, some people began doubting whether crime could go any lower. But not the members of the NYPD.
“So far this year, murder is down 32 percent compared to last year’s record low – and while Ray said it’s down 30-odd percent from when we came into office, if you compare the first-third of this year to when we came into office, it’s down 56 percent. And shootings also are down 22 percent compared to last year’s record low. New York City has never been safer in its modern era than it is today –we are the safest big city in the country.
“Last year, by cutting the murder rates to a new record low, we saved 96 lives compared to the year before, and since 2002, we’ve saved 7,364 lives compared to the decade before.
“Let me ask you: how many people can say they’ve helped saved more than 7,300 lives since 2002? Not many, but you can. And you should be extremely proud of what you’ve done.
“I’ve always said that calling police officers First Responders is to fundamentally misunderstand modern policing, which has been redefined by the NYPD. The members of the NYPD are First Preventers. You prevent crimes from happening, and the murder numbers tell the story.
“Last year, we had a record low 419 murders. If instead we had had Washington, DC’s murder rate, nearly 1,200 New Yorkers would have been murdered last year instead of 419. If we had Chicago’s murder rate, more than 1,400 New Yorkers would have been murdered last year instead of 419. If we have Philadelphia’s murder rate, more than 1,700 New Yorkers would have been murdered last year instead of 419. If we had Baltimore’s, it would have been more than 2,900 murders last year. And if we had had Detroit’s murder rate, more than 4,500 New Yorkers would have been murdered last year instead of 419. That’s a factor of ten.
“Not only are you saving all those lives by preventing those murders, you’re also keeping young people from going to jail and to prison. Unlike in the rest of the country, where incarceration levels are going up, here in New York City we’ve cut crime not by locking more people up, but by locking fewer people up. Compared to 2001, the number of people behind bars today is 31 percent lower.
“At the same time, members of the NYPD are far less likely to discharge their guns than members of any other big city police departments around the country. In 2011, there were nine fatal shootings by the NYPD. In Houston – a city a quarter of our size – the number was twice ours: 18. If we had had Houston’s rate of fatal police shootings, 66 people would been fatally shot by the NYPD in New York instead of nine. And if we had Chicago’s rate, the number of people killed by police would have been 68 instead of nine.
“And yet even with that incredible record in reducing crime, saving lives, and making neighborhoods far safer – while at the same time reducing incarceration, and reducing police shootings – it’s hard to believe, but the NYPD is under attack, probably because this is an election year.
“The attacks most often come from those who play no constructive role in keeping our city safe, but rather view their jobs as pointing fingers from the steps of City Hall. Some of them scream that they know better than you how to run the Department. Some have even sued the NYPD and demanded a Federal monitor over NYPD operations.
“They’ve also drafted politically driven legislation that is a reaction to two NYPD practices: stop-question-frisk, and counterterrorism intelligence gathering. In both cases, opponents argue that the NYPD is targeting people because of their race or ethnicity. In both cases, they could not be more wrong.
“As the ongoing Federal court case is now demonstrating for any objective observer to see, the NYPD conducts stops based on seeing something suspicious, or witnesses’ descriptions of suspects, not on any preconceived notions, or on demographic data that would have you stopping old women as often as you stop young men.
“That’s not the real world. If the NYPD conducted stops and intelligence gathering based on demographic data rather than real leads, guns would be everywhere in our city, thousands of New Yorkers who are alive today would be dead and terrorists may well have succeeded in attacking us again.
“And yet some in the City Council and some mayoral candidates are supporting legislation that would push the NYPD in that direction.
“One bill pending before the Council, which would create an Inspector General to oversee NYPD policy, would make it harder for the Police Commissioner to maintain unity of command and harder to enforce accountability, because there would be an appearance of a rival power.
“Whose policies should an officer on the street follow – and how would he or she know that their partner would be following the same procedures when the bullets start flying? With confusion comes deadly consequences to our police officers and to the public that they are sworn to protect.
“In addition, I’m deeply concerned that the bill could undermine our counterterrorism operation. As you know, counterterrorism operations are all conducted within the bounds of the law, as determined by Federal judges – and no court has ever found otherwise.
“But if this bill passes, the law enforcement agencies that we work with on counterterrorism and intelligence gathering might be less willing to share information with us if they were concerned that it could be released outside the Department to an Inspector General and the City Council.
“Passing any legislation that undermines our counterterrorism capabilities would be the height of irresponsibility. God forbid terrorists succeed in striking our city because of a politically-driven law that undermines the NYPD’s intelligence gathering efforts.
“The second bill before the City Council is being sold as a law that bans racial profiling. Well the fact of the matter is racial profiling is already against the law. In fact, I signed that bill into law, because our Administration has absolutely zero tolerance for racial profiling.
“In addition, under Commissioner Kelly’s leadership, we’ve made the NYPD the most diverse police force in the nation. Critics who claim that police stops are based on race never seem to mention the fact that the majority of the NYPD’s patrolling officers are minorities, but that’s true. And last year, Commissioner Kelly instituted more rigorous training and quality controls to ensure that officers conduct stops properly and respectfully.
“What the bill would do is to preclude the NYPD from using key information, including gender, age and race to identify suspects. Think about this, if an officer is told by a witness that a 20-something white man wearing a blue windbreaker was seen shooting a gun, the officer under this bill could only use the color of the windbreaker as a lead.
“That means the law would require the officer to ignore all the information provided by the witness except the color of the windbreaker, and the officer would have to stop 80-year-old black women if they’re wearing blue windbreakers. Even more absurd, if they stop someone who perfectly fits the description provided – a 20-something white man wearing a blue windbreaker – and that person turns out not to be the shooter, that person could sue the NYPD.
“You really can’t make this up, and it gets even worse. By making it easier to sue the Department, the bill would allow New York State judges to micromanage the NYPD. And you can bet that aggressive tort lawyers are licking their chops at the prospect of bringing more cases against the City that the taxpayers can ill afford.
“If this bill passes, all officers will be under threat of going to trial for doing their jobs – or, they may avoid doing their jobs in order to avoid going to trial, making all of us less safe. Do we want police officers not to make a stop for fear of triggering a lawsuit? I don’t – and I don’t think other New Yorkers do either.
“Do we want police officers to spend their days testifying in court, instead of being out on the street preventing crime and catching criminals? I don’t – and I don’t think other New Yorkers do either.
“Do we want New York State judges to have the opportunity to micro-manage the NYPD? I sure don’t – and I don’t think other New Yorkers do either.
“The legislation is based on the false allegation that the NYPD disproportionately stops young men of color. But as you know, stops are made based on descriptions of suspects and suspicious activity only. And the sad reality is on the streets of our city, 90 percent of murder suspects and murder victims are black and Latino. And black and Hispanics are the overwhelming majority of suspects in other violent crimes.
“The truth of the matter is, comparing stops to the general population it just not rational. Comparing stops to the witnesses’ description of suspects and the identification of suspicious activity – which together reflect the racial and ethnic breakdown of criminal activity – is what matters. And the numbers put the lie to the racist allegations. In fact, the percentage of stops of blacks is less than that of whites and Asians when adjusted for crime reports.
“Now we can’t ignore the reality of crime and which communities are most affected. Instead, as a society we should question why that reality exists and do something about it. And that’s why our Administration launched the Young Men’s Initiative, which George Soros and I helped to fund. It’s designed to attack the racial and ethnic disparities that exist in education, unemployment, criminal activity and other areas.
“It is our responsibility, all of us, to confront this issue head on, but not to support politically driven legislation that will just make it harder for police officers to do their jobs without getting sued, and easier for a State judge to tell the Police Commissioner how to run the Department. And more likely that there will be even more senseless killing of our young men of color.
“Make no mistake, this is a dangerous a piece of legislation – and anyone who supports it is courting disaster.
“By their own admission, the supporters of these bills say they are designed to put pressure on the NYPD to make fewer stops, and conduct less counterterrorism intelligence gathering. If the bills pass, they will make our city less safe and innocent people will pay a terrible price.
“My message is simple: Stop playing politics with public safety. Look at what’s happened in Boston. Remember what happened here on 9/11. Remember all of those who’ve been killed by gun violence – and the families they left behind. We owe it to all of them to give our officers the tools they need to protect innocent lives or people will needlessly die and we’ll all be responsible.
“Last week, a Bronx resident named Alphonza Bryant was shot and killed while standing with friends near his home. He was 17. Like most murder victims in our city, he was a minority.
“As I said earlier, about 90 percent of all murder victims in our city are black and Latino, but we cannot allow Alphonza to become a statistic. Alphonza was a person. He had a loving mother. Family. Friends.
“It does not appear he was even the intended target of the shooters. He was just a victim of too many guns on our streets.
“After his murder, there was no outrage from the Center for Constitutional Rights or the NYCLU. There was not even a mention of his murder in our paper of record, the New York Times. All the news that’s fit to print did not include the murder of 17-year-old Alphonza Bryant.
“Do you think that if a white 17-year-old prep student from Manhattan had been murdered, the Times would have ignored it?
“I believe that the life of every 17-year-old and every child and every adult is precious. And I wake up every morning, as I know all of you do, thinking about what we can do to protect the lives of innocent New Yorkers and spare more people from the pain and heartbreak that we’ve seen far too much.
“But the fact of the matter is when police stop and ask a 17-year old a question based on reasonable suspicion of a crime, there is outrage. Yet when a 17-year-old is standing on the corner near his home at 8:15 in the evening and gets shot and killed, there is silence.
“Four days after Alphonza Bryant’s murder went unreported by the Times, the paper published another editorial attacking stop-question-frisk. They called it a ‘widely-loathed’ practice – even though a growing number of mothers and fathers who have had their children murdered with guns have been speaking out in support of stop, question and frisk.
“Let me tell you what I loathe. I loathe that 17-year minority children can be senselessly murdered in the Bronx – and some of the media doesn’t even consider it news. I loathe that parents have to bury their children – and children have to bury their parents because there are too many guns on our streets.
“I loathe that Detective Peter Figoski’s four daughters will never see their father again. I loathe that Detectives James Nemorin and Rodney Andrews were executed while trying to take guns off our streets.
“I loathe that illegal guns threaten our communities every day – especially black and Latino communities – because politicians don’t have courage to stand up for measures that can save lives.
“In Washington, some elected officials don’t have the courage to stand up to special interests on the right and pass common sense gun laws. And in New York City, some don’t have the courage to stand up to special interests on the left and support common sense policing tactics like stop and frisk.
“We don’t need extremists on the left or the right running our Police Department – whether it’s the NRA or the NYCLU.
“Now, critics say that police stops have nothing to do with the reduction in crime we’ve achieved. But think about this: over the past eleven years, stops have taken 8,200 illegal guns off our streets – and murder-by-guns has dropped dramatically.
“In New York City in 2012, 57 percent of murders occur with a gun. In Washington, DC, it was 66 percent. In Baltimore, 84 percent. In Detroit and Philadelphia, 86 percent. In Chicago, the percent of those murdered by guns was 87 percent. And all of these cities also have much higher murder rates than we do.
“There is no doubt that stops are a vitally important reason why so many fewer gun murders happen in New York than in other major cities – and why we are the safest big city in America.
“Critics say the fact that we’re ‘only’ finding 800 guns a year through stops of people who fit a description or are engaged in suspicious activity means that we should end stop and frisk.
“Wrong. That’s the reason we need it – to deter people from carrying guns. We are the First Preventers.
“Think about police department tactics, that they often announce they’re setting up checks for DWI. The goal is deterrence. If you know you’re likely to be stopped, you don’t drink and drive.
“If you end DWI stops, more people will get killed in crashes. And if you end stops looking for guns, make no mistake there will be more guns in the hands of young people and more people will be getting killed. It’s really that simple.
“The special interest groups who know nothing about policing, and some elected officials who have never had responsibility for some public safety strategies, are putting ideology and election year politics above public safety.
“They seem to believe that the Department should be run according to the standards of political correctness, not public safety. And they are in total denial about what it has taken to make New York the safest city in the country – and about what it will take to keep it that way.
“I have 245 days left in office and I promise you I will never put ideology above safety, I will never play politics with people’s lives. My primary responsibility as mayor – as it will be for my successor – is to keep New York safe.
“Yes, creating jobs is important. Yes, providing social services to those in need is very important. Yes, providing a top-quality education to our children is maybe most important of all.
“But protecting people from street crime – and protecting our city against another terrorist attack – is the most important job of any mayor, period. Because not only are people’s lives at stake, if you don’t have a safe city you don’t have the tax base to spend on education and social services and infrastructure investments.
“Public safety has been the foundation of our economic growth – and the biggest reason why New York City is stronger than ever today.
“If we look ahead, the big question we face is not whether we can drive crime down further than in 2012. You’ve already shown that that’s possible in the first four months of this year.
“The question is not whether the NYPD can continue driving crime to new record lows. The question is whether elected officials and special interest groups will allow you to. Will they trust you and will they have your back? God help us if they don’t – and may God protect you, and may God protect all of us.
“Thank you very much.”
Marc La Vorgna / John J. McCarthy