bloomberg, crime, and liberty

NYC mayor Michael Bloomberg vetoed measures that would have limited stop-and-frisk. The measures would have a) created an independent inspector general to monitor police, and b) expand the definition of race-based profiling and the opportunity for potential victims to sue.

My view is that Bloomberg was wrong to veto the measures. We must reconcile law and order with civil liberty. That is the compromise we make in a free society. Bloomberg’s goal of more flattering statistics with regard to prosecution is a zero sum game with civil liberty and personal dignity. We can’t live in a society where the only crimes are those committed by police and we live in fear of law enforcement.

The idea of someone independent of police who has some authority over them is a great idea. Bloomberg describes it as dangerous, though I doubt such danger would ever materialize. Police have awesome power over individuals; their actions and later testimony can (and does) impact the lives of the accused for a very long time. We need mechanisms in place to offset that power. Lastly, while I think we tend to “over-sue” in this country, most suits are by corporations and for what is often monetary gain–simple business decisions to extract money from other companies, inspire fear and alter the competitive landscape, or both. Individual suits of police departments are much less frequent. Sometimes litigation is the only justice victims of law enforcement will ever have.

That is why Bloomberg is wrong on this issue. We need competent and effective police, and NYC has some of the best. But we need protection from police as well, and Bloomberg just vetoed it.

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