Rev. Al Sharpton's Weekly Blog

Have You No Shame?

Jun 08, 2015

People will sometimes say or do anything to deflect from the very serious issues at hand. In many Black and brown communities across this nation, mothers, fathers, grandparents and entire families often worry when their children step outside the home -- even to simply walk to school. Their fears are twofold: They loathe any criminal element that may be present wherever there is poverty and/or a lack of opportunities, but they are also weary of a police force that often fails to distinguish between criminals and everyone else and instead engages in blanketed profiling, stops and searches. Rather than coming together to find ways to tackle both crime and unfair police practices, some resort to spreading unfounded, outright lies in order to keep the status quo. Their latest barrage of blatant falsehood? Claiming that there is somehow a correlation between an alleged spike in crime and a reduction in stop-and-frisks. Nothing could be further from the truth, but clearly there are those who simply have no shame.

For decades, National Action Network (NAN) and I have championed civil rights and equality on behalf of families around the country who were largely silenced and ignored. I'm a native New Yorker, and my fight for social justice took shape in this great city as we dealt with issues ranging from racial profiling and unfair housing practices to quality education and violence prevention, and all the way up to reforming stop-and-frisk tactics. It is that last one, altering stop-and-frisk policies, that we spent significant time on as more and more of our young people faced harassment, brutality, unjustified arrests and even death at the hands of some officers behaving badly. In 2012, we led a silent march against stop-and-frisk along with other civil rights groups, labor leaders and others, with thousands attending in a show of solidarity. And we were elated when a federal judge ruled that the NYPD's use of stop-and-frisk was unconstitutional. Now that officers have reduced the number of stop-and-frisks (which study after study said overwhelmingly stopped innocent individuals), those who wanted to prevent reform from taking shape have now stooped to a pathetic level by blaming a so-called "spike in crime" on this reduction. Nice try, but the facts say otherwise.

The Washington Post recently published an article titled ""The Overwrought, Very Political Hand-wringing Over Crime in New York." The piece emphasizes that crime overall in New York City is actually down. And furthermore, the author states "that several of the areas where stop-and-frisks dropped the least (like in southeast Brooklyn...), murders were still up. In fact, there's no correlation between either the percentage or numeric change in stop-and-frisks and the change in crime in New York City precincts." You hear that everyone? No correlation. While certain areas may see a rise in shootings or even murders, they have no correlation to a decrease in stop-and-frisks. And as this piece so eloquently highlights, in some areas where the tactic was reduced the least, there was still a rise in murders. In short, don't blame reform that was desperately needed for any alleged increase in crime. Any crime, including shootings or murders, are the result of a host of contributing factors that those with an agenda somehow fail to mention.

If critics of police reform were serious about fighting crime and making cities like New York and others safer, they would work with community leaders, civil rights groups and citizens to establish better policies and foster better relations. Let's get one thing straight: Nobody is in favor of criminal activity, and we all want to see criminals held accountable. But when so many of our innocent youth are criminalized and unjustifiably targeted on a regular basis, the results have been devastating -- even deadly.

For the grieving mother or father of an innocent child killed at the hands of an officer "by mistake" or for any other unjustified reason, even hinting that stop-and-frisk reform has led to an increase in crime is to put the nail in the coffin of that child.

Have you no shame?