Republican Donald Trump detailed his plan to dramatically reduce black-on-black crime in America on Wednesday, saying he would seek to expand a controversial stop-and-frisk program across the nation as president.
During a town hall held by Fox News's Sean Hannity on Wednesday afternoon in Cleveland, Trump told an audience member that he "would do stop-and-frisk" in black communities faced with high levels of violence.
"We did it in New York, it worked incredibly well," he said, according to a partial transcript released by Fox. The interview was scheduled to air Wednesday night. "I see what’s going on here, I see what’s going on in Chicago, I think stop-and-frisk. In New York City, it was so incredible, the way it worked. Now, we had a very good mayor, but New York City was incredible, the way that worked, so I think that could be one step you could do.”
The tactic had been used for years, and its implementation escalated to unprecedented levels during the three-term administration of former Mayor Michael Bloomberg. He and former Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly credited it for the city experiencing 12 consecutive years of decreasing crime. Even as they made this assertion, as protests from minority community leaders grew more intense, they cut the practice by about 72 percent from its peak in 2011 to 2013. The former mayor is founder and majority owner of Bloomberg News parent Bloomberg LP.
Trump is a longtime advocate for stop-and-frisk tactics. "Stop and frisk works. Instead of criticizing @NY_POLICE Chief Ray Kelly, New Yorkers should be thanking him for keeping NY safe," he tweeted in 2013. Last Friday, he called it "a very positive thing" during an interview in Philadelphia.
Late Wednesday, his campaign reiterated the candidate's support of the program, but tried to couch it in terms of one city's ongoing problem with gun violence.
"Concerned about the ongoing, tragic violence in Chicago, Mr. Trump, along with many other Americans, believes that 'stop and frisk,' used successfully in New York City during the administration of Mayor Giuliani, saved lives and reduced crime," Jason Miller, Trump senior communications adviser, said in a statement. "Mr. Trump believes that a locally tailored version of ‘stop and frisk’ should be used in Chicago to help reduce the city's skyrocketing violence and make our Chicago safe again.”
New York History
The practice of stopping mostly minority youths on the street became an explosive political issue in New York City. Mayor Bill de Blasio credits his 2013 election on his ability to identify it early as a problem that hindered law enforcement by causing a loss of trust in black and Hispanic communities, groups that Trump has struggled to win over.
After selecting Bill Bratton as the city's police chief, de Blasio established "a community policing'' strategy that he said would improve relations between police and minorities and reduce crime. Stop and frisks, which had reached a peak of 685,000 in 2011, are likely to total about 40,000 this year, de Blasio said recently.
During that two-year span the major crime has decreased 5 percent to a record low, including a 13 percent drop in shooting incidents, according to department statistics.
The practice became a subject of protests from leaders in minority communities before de Blasio's election. The New York Civil Liberties sued to stop it, and in 2013 U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin ruled that it unlawfully targeted minorities and she ordered the appointment of an independent monitor to oversee the police department. De Blasio that month began to ascend in public opinion polls as he ran for the Democratic Party's mayoral nomination among a field of seven.
New York’s program was “an abysmal failure” that sowed distrust between communities of color and police, said Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union.
“It’s a code for racial profiling. It targeted innocent people of color,” Lieberman said in an interview. “A church buy-back program would be more effective in dealing with weapons."
De Blasio said Trump's statement runs counter to the thinking of the most-respected leaders in law enforcement who he said are developing policies that enhance mutual respect between police and minority communities.
"On this issue he has no legitimacy. It was one of the central issues in 2013, but back then we had to prove we could make the city safe without stop and frisk, and we've proven that we could make it safer.''
Of Trump, he said, "He's a huckster and he's good with a soundbite but this is one of the most disingenuous statements ... Here's a guy who's brazen about the way he's taken advantage of laws and gamed the system.''
Earlier Wednesday, while visiting a largely black congregation in Ohio, Trump expressed doubts about a police officer who recently shot an unarmed black man in Oklahoma, saying it’s possible not all police officers are cut out for law enforcement work.
“This young officer, I don’t know what she was thinking, but I’m very very troubled by that,” Trump said, referring to the caught-on-video shooting of a black man, Terence Crutcher, last week by a white police officer in Tulsa.
“Did she get scared? Was she choking? What happened?” Trump said at the New Spirit Revival Center in Cleveland Heights.
He added, “Maybe people that choke, people that do that, maybe can’t be doing what they’re doing.”
Trump's comments came during a campaign swing aimed directly at appealing to black voters and also five days after the nation’s largest police union, Fraternal Order of Police, endorsed him for president.
Trump, who is getting crushed by Democratic rival Hillary Clinton among minority voters, surrounded himself with loyal backers, including famed boxing promoter Don King, who accused people of trying to “ridiculize” Trump.
King, dressed in a jacket decorated with sparkling sequins, called Trump fearless “and bold enough to take on the system.”
“We need Donald Trump, especially black people,” King said.
But those comments were overshadowed by King’s choice of words when making his appeal to African-Americans. King, 85, was making a point about blacks viewed by their race, not just by their intelligence or talent.
“If you’re poor, you are a poor negro. I would use the n-word,” he said, and laughed. “But if you’re rich, you are a rich negro. If you are intelligent, intellectual, you’re an intellectual negro. If you’re a dancing and sliding and gliding nigger—I mean negro—you are a dancing and sliding and gliding negro.”
King, who was convicted of manslaughter for kicking a man to death in 1966 and later pardoned, has said he was blocked from speaking at the Republican National Convention in his hometown of Cleveland in July by the Republican National Committee, despite Trump's repeated appeals to have him on the program. He joined Trump at another stop in Toledo and was expected to join him at an appearance in Dayton, too.
Trump didn't mention Tuesday night's police shooting in North Carolina, the latest round of tension between police and the black community, during the event. Protests broke out in Charlotte after a black police officer fatally shot a black man. Law enforcement said Keith Scott, 34, exited a vehicle with a handgun and threatened officers.
Trump did talk at length about his poll numbers, saying he’s doing well in Florida, Ohio, North Carolina, Colorado, and Connecticut—and he just saw “a very good poll from New Mexico.”
In his prepared remarks, Trump said the black community has suffered from discrimination. “There are many wrongs that still must be made right,” he said. He said he wants to help blacks, Hispanics, and all Americans.
“We must love each other and support each other and we’re all in this together,” he said.
It wasn’t until the end of the hour-long event that the church’s pastor brought up the police shootings, asking Trump to “think it through” before he spoke because his answer “is going to reverberate around this planet.”
Trump answered, “As you know I’m a tremendous believer in the police and law enforcement. I’ve already gotten the endorsement from so many different groups and they’re great people.”
But even among great people, there are bad people, he said.
“These things are terrible. In my opinion that was a terrible situation,” he said, referring to the Tulsa shooting, “and we’ve seen others.”
Clinton made reference to the two police-involved shootings in a speech on the economy Wednesday in Orlando, Florida.
"There’s still a lot we don’t know yet about what happened in both incidents,'' she said. "But we do know that we have two more names to add to a long list of African-Americans killed by police officers. It’s unbearable. And it needs to become intolerable.''
She also made reference to attacks on police officers last week in Philadelphia and the officers injured Tuesday night in Charlotte during protests over the death of Scott. Many police departments are committed to making reforms for the safety of communities and of officers, Clinton said.
"We're safer when people respect the police and the police respect the people," she said.
—With assistance from Jennifer Epstein.