One Police Plaza

Hakeem Jeffries: From Clark Kent to Superman

June 1, 2015

Since becoming a Congressman, the formerly mild-mannered Brooklyn state assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries has morphed from Clark Kent into Superman.

At least, he appears that way in his criticisms of the NYPD — and most recently, Mayor Bill de Blasio.

There he was last month — NYU law school graduate, master’s degree in public policy from Georgetown, former corporate lawyer — with his picture in the NY Times after attacking de Blasio and Police Commissioner Bill Bratton at a gathering of African-American politicos [ministers included] at the Abyssinian Church and Al Sharpton’s so-called “House of Justice.”

Jeffries lambasted the mayor for failing to end Bratton’s “broken windows” policy, which targets low-level offenses and, the mayor’s supporters say, discriminates against black and Hispanic New Yorkers.

Jeffries also attacked the mayor for refusing to support a law banning chokeholds by police officers after last summer’s death of Eric Garner in Staten Island. A video has shown police officer Daniel Pantaleo, using what appears to be a department-banned chokehold on Garner, a 6-foot-four inch, 350-pound black man with 29 prior arrests. He had resisted arrest for the minor crime of selling “loosie” cigarettes.

Jeffries further blamed the mayor for what Jeffries said was “his willingness to support making resisting arrest a felony.”

Then there was stop-and-frisk. Jeffries suggested the mayor was taking undeserved credit for ending its overuse under former Police Commissioner Ray Kelly. “You didn’t get rid of stop-and-frisk,” Jeffries said. “The movement got rid of stop-and-frisk. …There was a federal court that declared stop-and-frisk unconstitutional. And, as a result, what you’ve done — based on the actions of Rev. Sharpton and activists and legislators and families and so many others who compelled, who pushed that federal court to declare stop-and-frisk unconstitutional — what you’ve done, you’ve implemented a federal court order. That’s all that happened.”

Jeffries has also spoken harshly about former Staten Island District Attorney Dan Donovan, saying Donovan might have feared to indict Pantaleo for Garner’s death because many police officers live in Staten Island. With Sharpton and the city’s four other black city Congressmen, Jeffries had asked the feds to take the Garner case from Donovan.

“The only way we will be satisfied,” Jeffries said at a Sharpton-led march last summer, “is if the officer involved …will be convicted and sent upstate.”

Jeffries’ rhetoric has become strident enough that, as the Post reported in Friday’s front-page story, some black ministers are suggesting Jeffries might challenge de Blasio in 2017.

That may be easier said than done. First, Jeffries will have to explain away his uncle Leonard, whose nonsensical race theories and anti-Semitic pronouncements created a stir while he chaired the Black Studies program at CUNY two decades ago.

More important, perhaps, some of Jeffries’ comments have been disingenuous and even untrue.

For example, stringing up Officer Pantaleo for Garner’s death may please Jeffries’ constituents, but, as an attorney, Jeffries knows there is something called due process.

At a recent House Judiciary Committee hearing on police reform, he lit into controversial black sheriff David Clarke over Garner’s death, saying, inaccurately, that Garner never resisted arrest.

When Clarke then mentioned “the elephant in the room” — what Benjamin Ward, the city’s first black police commissioner, called “our dirty little secret,” i.e. that most violent crime in the city is committed by young black males against other black males — Jeffries answered that whites killed whites at the same high rate.

Jeffries ignored the fact that homicide is not the leading cause of death of young white males.

When this reporter asked Bratton about the Jeffries-Clarke elephant exchange, Bratton said: “In this city, as we clearly know, it is not the elephant in the room. It is very much acknowledged that the vast majority of the violence in this city is minorities committing violence against other minorities. More significant in the black community rather than the Latino and white. But that is a reality. And for anybody to deny that reality, it is basically flying in the face of that reality.”

Through a spokesman, Michael Hardaway, Jeffries did not respond to email and telephone requests for comment.

As for stop-and-frisk, let’s make clear who the prime mover was that ended its overuse. Contrary to what Jeffries has said, it was neither “the movement” nor Sharpton. It was the New York Civil Liberties Union.


Copyright © 2015 Leonard Levitt