Mayor Michael Bloomberg told a black church congregation in a high-crime area of Brooklyn on Sunday that the police department's policy of street stops would continue in a city where "96 percent of shooting suspects are black or Hispanic."
The stop-and-frisk program that has drawn outrage "should be mended, not ended," the mayor said at the First Baptist Church of Brownsville. Instead, Bloomberg said officers are being retrained to conduct the stops with what he called "civility."
"With every ounce of my being, I believe that our city has the responsibility to save lives and drive down crime," he said. "And I believe just as strongly that our police department has the responsibility to treat people in every community with the respect that they deserve."
City officials have said the program helps reduce crime. Critics say it's racial profiling. Most of those stopped are black and Hispanic men.
Bishop Gerald Seabrooks, of the borough's Rehoboth Cathedral Church, is part of the Brooklyn Clergy-NYPD Task Force whose aim is to bring together police with residents and churches to keep pushing down crime.
"There is a lot of crime in the African-American community," the bishop said after the morning service. To fight it, "you can stop me 25 times a day" but "you have to treat people with courtesy." And if a young person is stopped, Seabrooks said, the officer must explain that does not mean he's a suspect or guilty of anything.
The church's pastor, Bishop A.D. Lyons, 90, agreed that police must show respect toward community residents. Police Commissioner Ray Kelly accompanied the mayor but did not speak.
Bloomberg told the congregation that city efforts at crime reduction -- including the stop-and-frisk program -- have resulted in the lowest number of murders since 1966. In 1990, murders hit an all-time high of 2,245. In 2011, there were 515.
The mayor drew gasps from the congregation when he said told them that of 10 murder victims in the first week of June, the victims were all young black or Hispanic men.
The New York Civil Liberties Union analyzed a year's worth of stop-and-frisk data and found that while stops have risen dramatically, the number of illegal weapons uncovered has not.