So Long, Safir
August 22, 2000
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The New York Times, in an editorial this morning, gives departing police commissioner Howard Safir a kick on his way out the door. It claims that Mr. Safir "engendered hostility among minority officers and the minority community as a whole," and that reductions in crimes "came at great cost to minority New Yorkers, many of whom felt targeted by the police." The editorial says of Mr. Safir that "Instead of empathizing with public fears, he relentlessly cited statistics showing that crime and brutality complaints had dropped during his tenure."
The perception that the crime reduction "came at a great cost to minority New Yorkers" is a myth propagated by partisan racial rabble-rousers like the Rev. Al Sharpton, abetted by the New York Times. In fact, the crime reduction helped minority New Yorkers more than anyone, since they are over-represented in the poor neighborhoods that were most victimized by crime before Mayor Giuliani and Mr. Safir and his predecessor as police commissioner, William Bratton, cleaned up the city. It's also a myth that Mr. Safir "engendered hostility." The hostility was engendered not by Mr. Safir but by those with a political or commercial interest in engendering such hostility -- namely, Rev. Sharpton and the Times. Finally, the criticism of Mr. Safir for failing to "empathize" with the public's alleged fears is ridiculous. If the fears are unfounded, as they almost entirely are, why should he have given them any credence, and why should he be faulted for having tried to invoke facts in an effort to dispel the unfounded fears?
None of this is to say that Mr. Safir or the New York Police Department is perfect. But they have compiled a remarkable record of crime reduction that has benefited all residents of this city, and Mr. Safir, on his departure, deserves to be lauded rather than chided.
The Times's approach to these matters is clear not only from the editorial but from two news stories in this morning's paper.
The first article quotes, in all apparent seriousness, Rev. Sharpton criticizing Mr. Giuliani and the new police commissioner for visiting a black church on Sunday. The article appears to treat Rev. Sharpton as a legitimate civil rights leader, without any reference to his record of inflaming racial discord in the Tawana Brawley case, the fire at Freddy's fashion mart in Harlem, and the aftermath of the Crown Heights riot in Brooklyn.
The second article, about a hearing in a federal fraud and bribery case against a former mayor of Newark, reports that the accused man "in 1970 became the first black to be elected mayor of a major Northeastern city." Why is the man's race is relevant in this story about a federal criminal charge? There is no indication in the article of why his skin color or culture would be at all germane to the story. But it is perfectly in line with the Times's approach of injecting racial issues into every matter, whether it is crime reduction or a federal trial. The metro editors might consult the excellent story in the paper's science section today that runs under the headline "Do Races Differ? Not Really, Genes Show."
Anonymous Russians: "More than 380,000 immigrants have come from the Soviet Union since it began collapsing 10 years ago," an article in the metro section of today's Times reports. Well, it's unclear whether that number applies to New York City, the New York metropolitan area, or all of America. Elsewhere, the article reports that there are "one million Russian speakers in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut." Whichever number you believe, you would think that the Times could manage to find at least one or two such immigrants who would be willing to speak using their full names. Nope. The article lets the Russian-Americans, with the exception of two journalists, use only their first names.
Production Error: Sections of a dispatch in today's Times about Hillary Clinton's refusal to endorse Rep. Eliot Engel were so good that the Times printed them twice. This quote from Mr. Engel, for instance, appears twice in my New York edition: "Let's face it: Robert Ramirez has browbeaten the world and threatened the world and this is the kind of boss-laded politics he runs in the Bronx. Everyone is afraid of him."
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