Sunday, May 24, 2015

Stu Bykofsky | Nutter's frisk plan: Nutty - or gutty?

MICHAEL NUTTER IS expanding his horizons, but limiting yours.

As a city councilman, his biggest recent success was pushing an anti-smoking law across the finish line. As a mayor, he would give Philadelphia police the power to stop and frisk you.

To be sure, not at 15th and Locust, nor at Germantown and Gravers, nor at Southampton and the Boulevard. That's not where a pedestrian would be pulled over by police and patted down for illegal weapons.

Those are white neighborhoods.

It will happen only in "high-crime" and "high-violence" neighborhoods. Nutter calls them "targeted-enforcement zones," but the fact is they are black neighborhoods and low-income neighborhoods.

Is it ironic that a black mayoral candidate wants to declare a "limited crime emergency" and throw a blanket of blue over black neighborhoods that don't always welcome police? It could be political suicide for a white candidate to call for that.

Nutter released his anti-crime plan the day after the Martin Luther King Jr. national holiday. It was no coincidence.

"Martin Luther King is the national symbol for justice, civil rights and peace," Nutter told me. "We have an emergency situation in this city and I'm about justice, civil rights and peace."

I wondered what Dr. King, a powerful voice against violence, would say about the crime-fighting plan.

I wondered what Frank Rizzo would say.

Maybe somewhere they are together and shedding a tear - one for his people, the other for his city.


 

Nutter wants to "enhance" police powers in minority neighborhoods because that's where the vast majority of Philadelphia murders take place.

Saying that doesn't make you a racist.

Not caring about it does.

Angry and dismayed, Nutter says 85 percent of last year's 406 murder victims were African-American and "99.9999 per cent" of them were killed with illegal guns.

That's why he's proposing a plan that seems to bang into the Constitution's Fourth Amendment prohibition on unreasonable search and seizure.

"There are stop-and-frisk strategies that, if police officers are properly trained and they are properly implemented, do not violate the Constitution," says Larry Frankel, of the Greater Philadelphia chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union.

Here's Frankel's caveat: If "there's some kind of racial or demographic component that means . . . some people because of their race are more likely to be targeted, then I think you raise questions."

Most stopped and frisked would be minorities, but Nutter says that's because they are in the zone, not because of their skin tone. He expressed confidence in Philly cops to do it right.

Giving cops with "reasonable suspicion" authority to stop and frisk in a targeted zone can work here, Nutter believes, because it's been done in Kansas City, New York, L.A. and elsewhere. Nutter's mentor on this is Penn criminologist Lawrence Sherman, who's studied the tactic for getting illegal guns off the street.

Nutter likens his plan to post- 9/11 security measures at airports, which are annoying and intrusive. We're asked to sacrifice a little liberty for some safety.

In high-crime areas, the "notion of 'life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness' has been infringed upon . . . by people running around with illegal weapons," said Nutter.

He wants to stop them, even at the cost of constricting some rights.

If it will stop the madness, reduce murder and keep children's blood from running in the street, how can you reasonably say

no?

E-mail stubyko@phillynews.com or call 215-854-5977. For recent columns:

http://go.philly.com/byko.

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