Earlier this week, President Obama endorsed New York City police commissioner (and stop-and-frisk champion) Ray Kelly as a worthy candidate to succeed Janet Napolitano as head of the Department of Homeland Security.
He followed that up yesterday by stating on Univision, of all places, that:
“Kelly has obviously done an extraordinary job in New York,” and that the police commissioner is “one of the best there is” — an “outstanding leader in New York.”
Brentin Mock at Colorlines
“Mr. Kelly might be very happy where he is. But if he’s not I’d want to know about it. ‘Cause, you know, obvioiusly he’d be very well qualified for the job.”
rightly notes that, given the conversations we are currently having after the George Zimmerman verdict, and given the racial profiling which Kelly so cherishes of black and Latino citizens, Obama's endorsement of Kelly is strangely "tone deaf" and troubling.
Kelly’s “extraordinary” work in New York City has led to the city council passing the Community Safety Act, which scales back the police’s ability to racially profile considerably. Kelly’s stop-and-frisk policy is being challenged in federal court by the Center for Constitutional Rights right now. Obama’s own Justice Department may be sending in a federal monitor to ensure that NYPD stops racial profiling. The following, questioning and apprehension of targeted black males is at the crux of the current debate around George Zimmerman’s killing Trayvon Martin.
In the same week that Obama asked, in response to the Zimmerman verdict, if “we’re doing all we can to widen the circle of compassion and understanding in our own communities,” the Kelly that Obama has endorsed has insisted that NYPD “disproportionately stop[s] whites too much and minorities too little.”
But this isn't just about stop-and-frisk, about Kelly's championing of racial profiling as a legitimate procedural tool, and Obama's willingness to endorse such a police leader at any moment, much less this one.
This is also about the NYPD's scandalous spying on Muslim citizens that mirrors microcosmically what the NSA is doing on a grand scale. That Obama would endorse a police chief whose force is being sued by civil rights groups for unconstitutionally spying on its citizens, in the wake of Snowden's NSA revelations, is hard to swallow.
As Kai Wright wrote last month, there is a connection between data mining and racial profiling, between NSA abuses and stop-and-frisk:
The logic used to defend secretly collecting the communications data of people not accused of any crime is the same logic used to defend NYPD’s stop-and-frisk program and Homeland Security’s deportation apparatus. The logic of “national security” was developed and honed by law enforcement practices inside communities of color. It is one of the more striking examples of a basic truth: racial injustice is cancerous; it eats the national body from the inside out.
The logic of "national security" is one Obama has come to embrace, it seems, with alarming frequency – a logic that places privacy and civil liberties below imagined security benefits.
It's a logic that not only can be faulty, but at a time like this, tone deaf as well.
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