In San Francisco, controversy swirls around stop-and-frisk

justice frisk

SAN FRANCISCO - The storm of controversy that erupted when Mayor Ed Lee made it known he was thinking about stop-and frisk for this city continued in full swing July 17, as protesters including Board of Supervisors members and community organizations gathered at City Hall, and the mayor maintained he is still thinking about the matter.

Supervisor Malia Cohen, who represents the largely African American Bayview-Hunter's Point neighborhood, last week introduced into the Board of Supervisors a resolution strongly opposing such a move. She and four other supervisors who co-sponsored the measure addressed demonstrators gathered for a noontime demonstration at City Hall.

The Board of Supervisors later passed the resolution unanimously.

Calling stop-and-frisk "unnecessary, unwanted and unconstitutional," Cohen noted that the policy "has by all accounts had very little success, but what it has done is to create conflict between citizens and law enforcement officials and led to a culture of racial profiling and violation of individual constitutional rights."

Of nearly 700,000 stops under the program in New York City last year, she said, nearly 88 percent resulted in no arrests or tickets. Most stops were of young black or Latino men.

Acknowledging the violence in the city and its "devastating effect" on communities, Cohen urged city government, law enforcement and communities "to work together to develop creative strategies to address these challenges ... that do not infringe on residents' constitutional rights."

Speakers from community organizations, and co-sponsors of Cohen's resolution, emphasized the relation between jobs and education and stemming violence.

Eddy Zheng of the Community Youth Center challenged city government and community organizations to adopt a policy of "stop and educate, stop and employ, and most importantly, stop and heal."

That theme was picked up by Maddie Scott, whose 24-year-old son, George C. Scott, was killed 16 years ago as he tried to stop a fight. "This very issue was present then, and we said we are not going to let this happen. We are not going to go backwards, we are going to move forward in education, job creation and training, in peace."

In a conversation after the rally, Scott said progress has been made toward better relations with the police, "but stop-and-frisk will spoil it. 'Give us the guns, we give you a job, an education' - that's what we're telling the mayor the city's program should be.

"I'm tired of funerals ," she said. "I want to go to graduations."

Theo Ellington, president of the newly formed Black Young Democrats of San Francisco - initiators of the rally - was preparing to enter City Hall to present over 2,000 signatures his organization has collected, opposing stop-and-frisk. "The lives of our brothers and sisters are at stake," he said. "This is a civil rights issue that goes beyond one set of people."

At the end of the day, Mayor Lee - himself a former civil rights lawyer - said in a statement that he is still considering the issue.  He said he would not support or propose any plan that would violate constitutional civil rights protections, but added, "I am willing to move forward with bold ideas that get to results."

Photo: The woman speaking is Supervisor Malia Cohen; listening, center left, is Mattie Scott. Marilyn Bechtel/PW

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