Black voters wanted an end to a tactic that disproportionately impacts them, and that’s what Mr. Jim Kenney, by focusing on lawful, less aggressive, more respectful and evenly distributed policing, is offering.
An article in Philadelphia Magazine penned by Mr. Jay McCalla implies that Mr. Jim Kenney, the City’s 99th Mayor who was sworn in on January 4th, 2016, has duped black voters by pledging on the campaign trail to end stop-and-frisk only to, when in the Mayor’s Office, back-track and instead offer reforms to the tactic. Inaccurate is Mr. McCalla’s assertion that Mr. Kenney’s commitment to halt the policing practice was unqualified. As I wrote last week in a post titled “The Future of Stop-and-Frisk in Philadelphia,” Mr. Kenney, a former City Councilman of more than 20 years, said to me in an interview a week or so after his official campaign announcement that though stop-and-frisk needs to be eliminated or moderated, police officers, as a result of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling, have the right to stop a citizen if they have reasonable suspicion that the person has committed a crime, or that one was impending wherein the person stopped would be a main actor in it.
Another inaccuracy within the article was when Mr. McCalla said, “the day after Kenney took office, he began to make a slow-motion pirouette.” That’s not really true, because hours after being inaugurated, Mr. Kenney was asked publicly at City Hall by Mr. Vincent Thompson of 900am WURD what African-Americans can expect to see differently from the Philadelphia Police Department under his leadership. The reply Mr. Kenney gave was succinct: reforms to stop-and-frisk. Mr. McCalla stated in his article that: the final and complete revocation of Kenney’s promise took place when he declared, in classic pol talk, “My position on stop-and-frisk hasn’t changed.”
Mr. Kenney’s stance on how the policing practice is utilized in communities has remained consistent and proof of that is in the types of reforms proposed: ensuring stops are legal – meaning based on reasonable suspicion, not race – less aggressive and applied fairly across demographics.
“If a young man, usually a young man of color, is stopped three or four times a month simply for walking down the street, that doesn’t create a good environment among the citizenry and the police; there’s no reason to stop that young man,” Mr. Kenney said to me on the 16th of February in 2015.
Maybe Mr. Kenney should be faulted for not communicating clearly, or elaborating further, on what he meant when he said “ending stop-and-frisk,” but it’s evident that his definition of the tactic is the same as most black voters in Philadelphia: an overused policing practice that almost exclusively targets African-Americans who are not engaged in criminal activity but are simply existing in public.
And maybe the South Philadelphia-born career politician should be faulted for mis-managing expectations, because there are those who assumed that police officers would never stop another citizen again with Mr. Kenney in office, though that’s not a realistic expectation, and even I, during the Mayoral campaign, pointed that out by saying police will always have the right to halt individuals they deem suspicious, thus the real focus should be on inquiring what does suspicious mean and whether or not that definition is racially exclusive.
“Stop-and-frisk means anti-black,” said Mr. Greg Brinkley, an activist, former correctional officer and vocal critic of local government.
When Mr. Brinkley heard Mr. Kenney on the campaign trail say he was ending stop-and-frisk, it was “music to my ears.” Mr. Brinkley, who called into 900am WURD yesterday when I was guest hosting ‘The Nick Taliaferro Show’ and expressed his frustration with stop-and-frisk and the perceived double-talk from the Mayor, wouldn’t go as far to say Mr. Kenney broke his promise to black voters, though he would assert that Mr. Kenney deliberately repeated a popular talking point without offering the nuanced explanation that’s on display now.
“He should’ve explained it better, so now he needs to take responsibility for the backlash… he needs to take it on the chin,” Mr. Brinkley, who despite his frustrations called Mr. Kenney proposed reforms “great,” said in a phone interview today with Techbook Online.
Mr. Kelvyn Anderson of the Philadelphia Police Advisory Commission, who was one of my guests on the air yesterday, does, to a degree, side with Mr. Brinkley as it relates to clear communication. One of the problems with how this issue is discussed, said Mr. Anderson, is that it’s always stop-and-frisk, though there are plenty of stops that occur where a frisk nor a search are never executed. Moreover, there’s no policy or directive on stop-and-frisk, though there is one for pedestrian stops, which include officers filling out form 7548-A.
“The terminology and semantics of this are difficult to manage,” Mr. Anderson said.
Indeed, terminology and semantics is what has caused the current uproar. Some Philadelphians see pedestrian stops and just a nicer name for stop-and-frisk. Other residents say there are big differences between ending stop-and-frisk and reforming it. And the linguistics of this issue can be argued ad nauseam. But what can’t be debated is that black voters in Philadelphia wanted an end to a brash public safety tactic that disproportionately impacts them, and that’s what Mr. Kenney, by focusing on lawful, less aggressive, more respectful and evenly distributed policing, is offering. To say the Mayor of Philadelphia has broken his promise to black voters is, at best, hyperbole, and, at worse, inflammatory.
CLICK HERE to listen to ‘Why the Black Vote Matters,’ a podcast from The Dr. Vibe Show featuring a panel of black male thought-leaders, including the co-founder of the ‘Vote or Die’ movement.
Thanks for reading. Until next time, I’m Flood the Drummer® & I’m Drumming for JUSTICE!™