Priorities for the NYPD

On-duty police officers engaged in dirty dancing while guarding the West Indian Parade is a grotesque image many New Yorkers prefer not to see.

Our law enforcement agents should inspire respect and trust. Period. Dancing while working, just as with most other professionals, falls outside their work remit.

The NYPD should make this basic rule clear to its police officers, as this was not an isolated case – Commissioner Kelly recognized this yesterday when he said it wasn’t unusual for police assigned to get caught up in parade’s rowdy spirit.

But while police dirty dancing is certainly inappropriate, it is much worse to stop and frisk people on the basis of racial profiling. So if the former deserves a strong rebuke, the latter warrants a bold policy change.

The number of police stops conducted by NYPD officers is increasing every year -from about 575,000 in 2009 to over 600,000 in 2010. According to a recent report by the Daily News, 317,000 people were stopped between January 1 and June 30 of 2011.

About 85 percent of the stops involved Latinos and African Americans.

Just a few days ago federal judge Shira A. Scheindlin, in ruling against an effort by the NYPD to dismiss a lawsuit for racial profiling practices, said that the case was “an issue of great public concern…the disproportionate number of African-Americans and Latinos who become entangled in our criminal justice system, as compared to Caucasians.”

Perhaps this pattern explains the unjust handcuffing of Councilman Jumaane Williams and Public Advocate de Blasio’s aide Kirsten Foy (both Black) during the same parade, when the two public servants tried to access a blocked-off sidewalk.

NYPD officers have a lot to learn. Prohibiting dirty dancing should be part of the conduct code. Understanding, respecting and serving all New York residents, regardless of their appearance, must be a priority.

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