Christie: Pushing ‘stop-and-frisk’ wrong answer to Riviera Beach gun violence

Riviera Beach Mayor Thomas Masters speaks during a press conference at City Hall in Riviera Beach, FL on Tuesday. "If I had it my way I'd stop everything moving," he said in a news conference Monday. He warned youth, in particular, "You never know when you might be stopped and searched." (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

Riviera Beach Mayor Thomas Masters speaks during a press conference at City Hall in Riviera Beach, FL on Tuesday. “If I had it my way I’d stop everything moving,” he said in a news conference Monday. He warned youth, in particular, “You never know when you might be stopped and searched.” (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

Desperate times?

That has to be what Riviera Beach Mayor Thomas Masters is thinking as he rolls out proposals this week to curb gun violence in his city by the sea.

How else to explain proposing potentially violating someone’s civil rights to solve a long-running problem.

“If I had it my way, I’d stop everything moving,” he said in a news conference Monday. He warned youth, in particular, “You never know when you might be stopped and searched.”

Stop right there… it sounds like the mayor didn’t quite think things through. Because that sounds disturbingly like he’s advocating a “stop and frisk” policy, which would be a violation of Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. You know, the one that protects citizens against illegal search and seizure.

Taking Masters at his word, a “suspicious-looking” young man or woman walking down the street can be arbitrarily stopped by a law enforcement officer and searched. This is the same type of police action that civil rights advocates (like Masters?) have been fighting and railing against for decades when it comes to young black men.

At some point, this became apparent to Masters, as this morning he backpedaled on the proposed measure in the last five minutes of an an 18-minute Facebook Live event.

“I don’t want you to think there will be any stopping and frisking, that’s strictly unconstitutional, he said. “The rights of our young people must be protected; must be respected.”

Indeed. But the mayor’s frustration was still as palpable as it was at a Tuesday morning news conference calling for an “assault on gun violence.” For example, he still didn’t back off the idea of checkpoints for vehicles being driven into the city “for safety reasons.”

The mayor’s frustration is understandable — and shared by many Riviera Beach residents.

Masters, now serving his fifth term as mayor, has presided over a seemingly intractable problem with regard to gun-related homicides. Again, understandably frustrating.

And particularly frustrating has been the amount of gun violence involving young people in his city.

Riviera Beach, to be sure, is not the only city in Palm Beach County facing this issue. West Palm Beach, with which it shares a northern border, suffered through horrible rash of youth gun violence in the summer of 2015. And Boynton Beach has had similar issues.

But none has gone as far as Masters went this week when he proposed ramping up a slew of measures — checkpoints, curfew enforcement and a gun buyback program — at Tuesday’s news conference.

He was reacting to a recent spate of shootings that left a number of young people injured and dead. Last night came word from the Riviera Beach Police Department that the teenage victim of a Friday shooting died Tuesday evening, while the second victim was released.

The news was followed this morning by Masters’ Facebook Live to thank folks in the community who are working to solve this problem, and announce a “prayer chain” to ask people to pray at the top of the hour seven times a day beginning at 6 a.m.

Prayer is good. But we can all agree that at this point it’s going to take a lot more than prayer. As City Councilwoman Dawn Pardo said at Tuesday’s news conference: “The city of Riviera Beach is under siege.”

It’s good that the mayor came around and realized that violating someone’s constitutional protection against illegal search and seizure is not the answer.

Do you agree?