“RACIAL PROFILING and the objectification of our BLACK YOUTH must STOP.Police abusing power must STOP. We will not stand for a policy in which nearly 90% of its victims are people of color. We will not stand for humiliation of our people. We WILL stand against Stop and Frisk on Sunday, June 17th. We will END Stop and Frisk NOW.”
My boss is very passionate and vocal about her feelings toward ‘stop and frisk’. She, along with many others, finds the policies extremely racist and calls for them to immediately end. I, on the other hand, became curious about ‘stop and frisk’ and decided to raise the issue before answering the question. Mend the policies, or end them altogether? (Spoiler alert- in the end, I don’t answer the question.) Google ‘stop and frisk’ and one thing you won’t find is the actual policy/ wording/legislation/yesitsoktodothis document. Calling the NYPD won’t help either. Apparently they’re busy with other things and cannot answer phone calls from concerned constituents. That was a half-truth. I am not a New York constituent, and as (not) such, anything I had previously heard about this ‘stop and frisk’ policy was hearsay and through the grapevine. So I searched for definitions and unbiased information to better write an article free of preconceived notions affecting my judgment of the policy. It didn’t work.
I was flooded with articles all trending ‘racism,’ ‘infringement of rights,’ and a cry for the policy to end. Blacks, Latinos, and young men highlighted titles and reports. Media has it covered- from the Huffington Post to the WSJ to Youtube, ‘stop and frisk’ is attracting more attention than a black man walking Central Park West at 3 in the morning. Too soon? I did a little more research to discover why all these articles, posts, videos, responses, and even tweets have been blasted online. Stop, question, and frisk, more commonly called ‘stop and frisk,’ is actually a collection of policies heavily practiced by the New York Police Department. The United States Supreme Court established the legal basis for stops and frisks in the 1968 case of Terry v. Ohio. Giuliani, who became renowned for his drastic improvements to public safety, sparked the next mayoral candidates to continue keeping crime rates down. (In my opinion, which matters none, y’all should’ve elected Green.) Bloomberg ran with a platform upholding stop and frisk policies, and his 2009 campaign showed no difference; however, he did acknowledge “that [police] follow those rules and not just pick people totally at random and certainly not pick people based on things that they shouldn’t”. Eloquent. So, if you’re not picking someone at random, how are you picking him (or her! But more likely him)? Hmm… profiling? And what are ‘things that they shouldn’t’ pick people based on? Hmm… profiling. I’m not pointing fingers (yet.) In 2004, Councilman Phillip Reed’s Stop and Frisk Act passed unanimously banning racial profiling by law enforcement officers (R.I.P Phil.) On paper, enforcing stop and frisk policies seems an effective way to keep crime rates down. Profiling does not exist and crime rates plummet. Well, on paper, Communism looks pretty good too.
Also I’m pretty sure the crime rates under Stalin were kept extremely low. The problem in going from paper to practice seems to be the human part of it.
Brownsville, in my head referred to as StopandfriskmebecauseI’mBrownsville, accounts for about 8 blocks of Brooklyn and encompasses 14,000 residents. Brownsville is in the 73rd precinct, which has one of the highest violent crime rates in the city. Between January 2006 and March 2010, the police made nearly 52,000 stops on these blocks alone. Of these stops, only 25 resulted in the recovery of a gun. Bloomberg, along with other supporters of the policies, claims they take more of a psychological affect. If you know you may bestopped, you’re less likely to carry a weapon or commit a crime. Essentially, you stop the crime from fully being thought out and executed, thus lowering the rate. PreCog policies. Has anyone seen Minority Report? Bloomberg spoke on behalf of these policies at First Baptist Church in Brownsville, where in 2009 police stopped 93 out of every 100 residents. Surprisingly, the crowd received him well. Maybe he should’ve spoken at Brownsville Recreation Center, or Brownsville Academy High School. He preached, “We are not going to walk away from a strategy that we know saves lives,” but noted “At the same time, we owe it to New Yorkers to ensure that stops are properly conducted and carried out in a respectful way.” That sounds great! But how do you guarantee a young cop fresh on the job will carry out a stop and frisk in a high-crime area in a respectful way? You can’t. You can, however, require more accountability on the side of the enforcer. In reading all the articles and researching the facts that point all fingers at racial profiling, it seems as if there is a huge communication disconnect between enforcement and constituents. Associating police with ‘abuse of power’ is nothing new. But with power comes responsibility. It’s on paper, but is not being put to practice. If Bloomberg is to defend his policies, his officers ought to be held to a higher level of responsibility and accountability.
1. Require each officer to give a ‘receipt’ to whomever he (or she!) stops. The French are doing it! Each officer must hand out a slip with his or her own identification on it, and the reason for the stop. This may have officers thinking twice about stopping someone, as their own name would be traced back should an issue of rights violation come up or a complaint. Also if a specific officer now has a record for a particular demographic he/she stops more frequently without justification, perhaps that officer would be reassigned.
2. Have the officer claiming, “you fit a description” to offer tangible evidence of that description. A recording, a report, something. This justification is most commonly used to take a stop to a frisk, without the recipient ever knowing if he/she truly matches a description or is falling victim to police abuse of power.
3. Require each office to follow a specific script when stopping someone. This way, there is no room for condescending language or threats. The public shall know this script, and know that the rules and regulations for stopping someone are different than for frisking someone. a\Any officer not following the script has no right to continue the specific stop, or to take it to a frisk. The detainee may leave
I am not claiming these reforms will work, or will end profiling. Far from. I believe they can offer a better balance of power, and hold enforcement to a higher level of accountability than they are currently being held. Bloomberg doesn’t want to get rid ofthe policies. What is he offering as reform? There are many stories going unheard, many rights being violated, and many citizens being left as victims of stop and frisk. There are weapons being detained, crimes being stopped, and safety ratings showing improvement. There is a misbalance of power and a lack of accountability. I’ve merely touched on this issue, but will still call for action.
Something that gets attention from constituents is going to get attention from law enforcers, policy changes, and city authorities. If you want to draw attention to stop and frisk, be heard by being silent. Join the silent march on Sunday, June 17th. The higher the numbers, the louder the message, the greater the difference we can all make. Silentmarchnyc.org #silentmarchnyc
If you are outside of NYC during the march, continue to inform yourself and take your own action. Read articles, gather the facts, and get upset. Tweet #endstopandfrisk #changetheyNYPD. Flood your mayor’s inbox demanding change and accountability. Ask him to take his methods from paper and put them into practice.
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg
New York, NY 10007
PHONE 311 (or 212-NEW-YORK outside NYC)