New York mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner yesterday warned against the use of the NYPD's controversial stop-and-frisk tactic as "a racial tool" and called Police Commissioner Ray Kelly "a bad commissioner who's not doing his job."
Weiner spoke during a campaign stop at the Harlem headquarters of the Rev. Al Sharpton, whose endorsement is up for grabs. "You know, I like Ray Kelly, I think he's a decent man," Weiner said to a crowd of about 100. "But at a certain point, you have to recognize: This is a policy of the police department to stop hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of thousands of people as their way of trying to stop crime." The remarks elicited applause and calls of "that's right!" and "yup!" from the audience.
Weiner said that if a police officer uses the tactic on mostly innocent people, "you are a bad cop" -- and their sergeants, captains and commissioner who supervise such officers are bad, too.
NYPD spokesman Paul Browne responded: "Police stops save lives. That hasn't stopped some from using the NYPD as a political football as the silly season fast approaches."
A federal trial is considering whether minorities have been unfairly and unconstitutionally targeted by stop-and-frisk.
Most of Weiner's major Democratic rivals have called for the tactic's preservation, with varying degrees of modification and new oversight. Only candidate John Liu, the current comptroller, said it should be abolished.
Before the speech, which also touched on housing, jobs and health care, Weiner met privately with Sharpton for about 45 minutes. For now, Sharpton said he is undecided and said all the Democratic candidates have agreed to spend a night with him in a housing project.
Weiner was forced to resign from Congress in 2011 over a sexting scandal. Sharpton said that shouldn't disqualify Weiner, explaining he deserves "a second chance."
"I think that we have pardoned people in public life who have sex scandals, that have had sex," Sharpton said.
None of a dozen audience members thought Weiner's texting excesses should matter. "I think if he becomes mayor of New York, he'll be too busy to do it," said Robert Greene, 59, of Brooklyn.