Meet the Press   |  August 18, 2013

2: 'Stop and frisk' divides law enforcement, communities

NAACP President Ben Jealous, New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly and an assortment of others discuss the constitutionality of the stop and frisk policy.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> and we are back. now to race, justice and how police departments around the country protect us from crime. the stop and frisk tactics used by the new york city police department are in jeopardy after a federal judge found them in violation of the constitutional rights of minorities. the city is appealing the ruling. we while the judge didn't exclusively reference trayvon martin in her opinion, she referred to the florida case and the racial disparities in our criminal justice system and policing systems. i'm going to talk to trayvon martin 's mother, sybrina fulton , and family lawyer benjamin crump in just a moment. but first, i spoke to new york city police commissioner ray kelly on friday. commissioner, welcome to "meet the press."

>> good to be with you, david.

>> i wanted to have you on to have this conversation not just about stop and frisk in new york but about a broader conversation about policing in america , and indeed, this debate about racial profiling that has grown more intense because of the trayvon martin case as well. so, case in point, you've got judge shichein lynn in new york ruling that the stop and frisk policy in new york has violated the constitutional rights of minorities and here's part of her opinion. the city's highest officials, she writes, "have turned a blind eye to the evidence that officers are conducting stops in a racially discriminatory manner. in their zeal to defend a policy they believe to be effective, they have willfully ignored overwhelming proof that the policy of targeting the right people is racially discriminatory and therefore violates the united states constitution ." you strongly disagree. why?

>> i do strongly disagree. this case cries out for appeal. the judge has indicted the entire new york city police department, 35,000 officers, of racial profiling on the flimsiest of evidence. you look at the expert for the plaintiff and what he found. he looked at 4.4 million stops over a ten-year period. he found 6% of them were, in his opinion, unjustified. in the trial itself, there were 4 plaintiffs, there were 12 witnesses, there were 19 stops. the judge herself found that ten of the stops met constitutional muster. there were some problems with the frisks, the judge pointed out. but this is very small evidence, a small amount of information to have such a sweeping finding. we believe that --

>> commissioner --

>> we believe that they used a faulty formula to do that.

>> let me go back to those numbers that you referenced and put it up on the screen for our audience and go through some of those numbers and where some of the criticism is. 4.4 million stops. 6% arrests. 6% summons. 88% no further law enforcement action. and then look at who is getting targeted. 52% black, 31% hispanic, 10% white. i first want to focus on that 88% number of people not doing anything wrong. does that not say to you as the commissioner of the police, we're doing too much of this?

>> no. it doesn't mean that people are not doing anything wrong. if you look at the statute, it says reasonable suspicion that individuals may be about to commit, are committing or have committed a crime. one of the classic examples that we use is somebody going down the street trying door handles, or a group of young men that the bodega owner fears going to strongarm rob them when they leave their store. so, there's a preventive aspect to this. and people say innocent. that's not the appropriate word. what we use here --

>> further law enforcement action.

>> well, what we use here is a standard of reasonable suspicion . if you have probable cause, then you have enough to effect an arrest or issue a summons. this, by the way, is the standard law enforcement practice throughout america , certainly not just going forward in new york . and as far as your second set of numbers are concerned, we think reasonable criteria is a criteria that was developed or presented to us by the rand corporation , an institution that's been in existence for 100 years, that says that to take a look at racial profiling and determine if it happens, you should first look at the universe of people who are identified by the victims of a crime. the perpetrators identified by victims of violent crime . what does that universe look like? and in new york , that universe certainly comports to the racial makeup of the people who are being stopped.

>> so, let me understand what you're saying. basically, there are more african- americans and hispanics who are committing crimes in new york city . therefore, it justifies a higher percentage of those being stopped on the suspicion that they might do something wrong that they might commit a criminal act , because the judge says that's faulty reasoning. she's saying you can't take an innocent population and say that that's the same as a criminal population.

>> well, obviously, we don't agree with the judge and that's why we need an appeal issue to go forward here. these are fundamental questions that we're looking at. again, we think the rand corporation is reasonable criteria. we have, by the way -- i think it's interesting to point out, we have the most diverse police department probably in the world.

>> can you understand the point of view of those african- americans like charles blow, who writes a comment in "the new york times" who says in part this, equating it to the trayvon martin case , as i mentioned at outset. he writes "the idea of universal suspicion without individual evidence is what americans find abhorrent and what black men in america must constantly fight. it is pervasive in policing policies like stop and frisk , and in this case, neighborhood watch ," talking about the trayvon martin case . "regardless of the collateral damage done to the majority of innocents, it's like burning down a house to rid it of mice."

>> no, absolutely, we are sensitive to this. nobody wants to be stopped. at the very least, you're giving up your time. but we need some balance here. the stark reality is that violence is happening disproportionately in minority communities, and that, unfortunately, is in big cities throughout america . we have record low numbers of murders in new york city , record low numbers of shootings. we're doing something right to save lives. last year, as i said, we had a record low in murders. this year we're running 30% below that. let me give you another figure. in the last 11 years, 11 full years of the bloomberg administration, there were 7,363 fewer murders in new york city than there were in the preceding 11 years. now, if history is any guide, those lives saved are largely the lives of young men of color. so, we're doing something --

>> so, if you lose stop and frisk --

>> but i understand the sensitivity of it. and people -- and i've dealt with this in many community meetings. it's something that is very important in the african-american community. i would also submit, though, that the trayvon martin case is a little bit different. these are two civilians. it clearly was a tragedy, but it didn't involve sworn police officers .

>> the mayor has been outspoken on this issue, and i wonder if you agree as a police commissioner. you have a debate for who's going to be the next mayor of new york city . if a program like stop and frisk is abandoned, will people die?

>> well, i think no question about it, violent crime will go up. and again, this is not a program. this is something that's integral to policing. this happens throughout america in any police jurisdiction. you have to do it. officers have to have the right of inquiry if they see some suspicious behavior. so, i can assure you, this is not just a new york city issue, it's an issue throughout america . and this case has to be appealed, in my judgment, because it will be taken as a template and have significant impact in policing throughout america .

>> commissioner kelly, we appreciate your time very much.

>> thank you, david.

>>> i want to welcome to the program now the mother of trayvon martin , sybrina fulton , and her attorney, benjamin crump. also joining me in the studio is president and ceo of the naacp, ben jealous . thank you for all of you joining me this morning. ben, let me start with you. i underlined commissioner kelly saying the stark reality is that violence is happening disproportionately in minority communities. with stop and frisk , lives are saved in those communities.

>> so, this is the problem. we just heard a man who aspires to be the head of the department of homeland security say that his officers had to violate the u.s. constitution to make us safer. that should send chills down the spine of everyone in this country.

>> he would take issue that there's any violation going on, that's why they're appealing the decision, right?

>> that's what a federal judge just found, and that, in our country, it's the federal judge , not the chief, who gets to decide what the u.s. constitution says. now, the problem is that the fall in homicides happened prior to 2002 , and the increase in stop and frisk happened after 2002 . so, there's no relationship between these two. we are now at a point where you have more stop and frisks of young black men in new york city than there are young black men in new york city , and that's why charles blow said, and while the judge quoted him in saying, it's like burning down the house to rid it of mice. just because there are more murders in our community doesn't mean that you can treat all of us like we are guilty. and furthermore, you should pay our communities the respect of actually listening to people when they say this is driving a wedge, this is making us less safe, it's making our kids not just fear the robbers but fear the cops. and so, they're afraid to go and talk to you when they need to go and talk to you. he's just way off base. this is the largest racial profiling -- and this last point. he said this is not a program. it is a program. stop, question and frisk was introduced by mayor giuliani right after the terry versus ohio decision as a specific program in the city. under giuliani, we saw about 80,000 per year, stop and frisks, this racial profiling program. under bloomberg, in 2011 , we have about 680,000, 90% innocent, 90% people of color , and get this, 99.9% don't have a gun. about 700 guns seized.

>> the wider point, sybrina fulton , i welcome you to the program. just your reaction as a mother who's lost her son so tragically and as now someone who's trying to create something positive out of that searing loss by talking about stand your ground laws. you've heard the commissioner of new york say, look, what happened to trayvon martin , even though it was referenced in the judge's ruling, is quite different. that was civilian on civilian. this is about civilians interacting with the police department . do you see that distinction or not?

>> i think it's all about laws, and i think you have to give not only civilians, but you have to give the police officers the right direction. you can't give people the authority, police officers the right to stop somebody because of the color of their skin.

>> let me get benjamin crump in here as well. how do you react to the commissioner saying there's not a distinction when particularly judge sheindlin is raising the specter of trayvon martin , that idea of universal suspicion that charles blow wrote about in saying this is what's wrong with the policy?

>> yes. we're here in phoenix, arizona, and the latino community deals with sb- 1070 and new york is stop and frisk . no matter what you want to call it, essentially, it's racial profiling , and we know trayvon martin was profiled for something that night on february 26th , 2012 , and he had broken no law. he was just walking home. and that's the problem. when you start this racial profiling , it's a slippery slope , and it's so bad for so many in the community. where does it stop? how do we protect our children once you give police or neighborhood watch authority to just profile us?

>> sybrina fulton , i want to come back to you. as you are going around the country, you're in arizona, you talked about the stand your ground laws, trying to get them amended. the idea that there is a trayvon martin voter. can you describe what this period of time has been like for you, how you're trying to turn this pain into some real activism to get some change?

>> well, you know, the death of my son was so negative that we felt that we needed to do something positive to not only help us heal but to help other families of senseless gun violence . and that's why we started the trayvon martin foundation. that's why we're going all over the country to the 21 states that have the stand your ground law to try to make some type of change. we understand it is not going to be done overnight, that it's going to take time to do this, but we're in it for the long haul. we're in it. this is a part of my life now.

>> ben jealous , final point to you. we're in a debate in this country about, in the quest for public safety , whether it's surveillance laws and the nsa, whether it's our policing tactics, how far is too far in the name of public safety . what changes the focus of this debate? what wins this debate to your side of the argument, do you think?

>> we've got to go back to the founding principles of this country. when our founders were courageous enough to say we deserve to be both free and safe. and those who would give up freedom in the name of safety don't deserve either. and that's why it's so important that trayvon's family has stood up, that's why it's so important that so many will be standing up at the march in washington next saturday. that's why it's critical that we all come together and realize at the end daytime, this is not about race. this is about freedom. this is about people in this country being able to walk out the door and not fear the cops when they're not doing anything wrong.

>> benjamin crump has an article about the effect of trayvon martin , an op ed piece in the " washington post " today. benjamin crump, thank you very much. sybrina fulton , we really appreciate your time this morning. and ben jealous , thank you, as always, as well.

>>> and coming up here, more than three years to go before our next presidential election, if you can believe it. if hillary clinton runs, did we already get a preview of her strategy? our "political roundtable" is coming up to answer that question. robert gibbs , rich lowry , congresswoman donna edwards and our own chuck todd .

>>> and still to come in our "meet the press archives," the dream of martin luther king jr . 50 years later. we're back in a moment.