Despite widespread public opposition, San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee appears increasingly committed to pursuing some form of a stop-and-frisk policy for the city. Most recently, he used the tragic mass shooting in Aurora, Colo., as evidence for why it's needed.
"I am as, if not more, committed [to the idea]...especially in light of the massacre that occurred in Aurora," Lee told the San Francisco Chronicle at a press conference on Monday.
The mayor initially voiced the proposal during an interview with the Chronicle's editorial board after having a conversation with New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, whose implementation of the program has come under fire for alleged racial profiling of minority communities.
Stop-and-frisk is a practice that permits law enforcement officers to detain and search anyone they consider suspicious.
"The month of June in San Francisco experienced a spike in shootings and homicides in our southeast neighborhoods," he said in a statement released last week. "This is unacceptable and while I take this issue extremely seriously, I want to be clear that I have not considered implementing a policy in San Francisco that would violate anyone's constitutional rights or that would result in racial profiling. I have stated that I am willing to look at what other cities are doing to reduce gun violence, including cities like New York and Philadelphia that both have stop and frisk programs."
Lee, a former civil rights lawyer, has repeatedly said he won't pursue a policy infringing on anyone's Fourth Amendment rights; however, critics have charged that implementing stop-and-frisk at all resembling what's going on in New York City or Philadelphia will necessarily do just that.
"I'm not into any program that will violate people's rights, but we've got to get to the guns," he explained.
Earlier this month, the Board of Supervisors passed a resolution urging the mayor to abandon any attempts to bring stop-and-frisk to San Francisco. More than 100 people gathered on the steps of City Hall in a rally organized by the Black Young Democrats of San Francisco, during which protestors dropped off 2,000 signatures against the plan.
"This pushback from the community is begging a difference that the mayor who has come out of a civil rights background can still live up to that by withdrawing this stop-and-frisk idea here in San Francisco," Supervisor John Avalos told CBS San Francisco.
Despite the recent spike in gun violence in San Francisco neighborhoods like the Baywview, the city's overall violent crime rate is at a historic low point not seen since the 1960s--decreasing for the third straight year in 2011.
Even San Francisco top cop Greg Suhr seemed cool to the proposal when he was asked about it during a press conference last month. "[We] make all of our detentions based on reasonable suspicion," he said. "I'm not saying that I would rule out having a discussion about anything, but I believe that we do it well and we do it right."
"We do not racially profile here in San Francisco and we never will," added Suhr.
While attending a recent U.S. Conference of Mayors event in Philadelphia, Lee met with Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey to discuss his city's stop-and-frisk policy, which recently underwent a major overhaul.
In 2010, a group of black and Latino plaintiffs, including one Pennsylvania lawmaker, joined with the American Civil Liberties Union to sue the city for illegally searching them and claiming a violation of their Fourth Amendment rights. The city settled last year and, as part of said settlement, agreed to allow a court-appointed monitor to oversee the program.
In New York, a recent report by the New York Civil Liberties Union found that the overwhelming percentage of people detained under that city's stop-and-frisk policy were minorities. In one heavily African-American Brooklyn neighborhood, 93 percent of residents claim to have been stopped by the police.
In 2011, 87 percent of people detained under New York's stop-and-frisk were black or Latino, although those groups combine to only about half of the city's overall population. The Center for Constitutional Rights estimates that one-third of all these searches were unconstitutional.
No specific proposals for exactly what a stop-and-frisk program in San Francisco would look like have yet been made public.
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