The New York City Police Department has an abysmal track record when it comes to the treatment of black men. Remember Sean Bell, Abner Louima, Amadou Diallo and countless other victims of police brutality. Recently, NYPD has been in the news because of its controversial stop and humiliate policy. As reported in the New York Times,
In a slow, somber procession, several thousand demonstrators conducted a silent march on Sunday down Fifth Avenue to protest the New York Police Department’s stop-and-frisk policies, which the organizers say single out minority groups and create an atmosphere of martial law for the city’s black and Latino residents.An earlier New York Times article entitled Injustices of Stop and Frisk noted that:
The statistics are getting worse by the year. Last week, the New York Civil Liberties Union released a report — based on the department’s data — showing the number of street stops had grown to 685,724 in 2011 from about 97,000 in 2002, the year Mayor Michael Bloomberg took office. On Friday, the Police Department released data showing that the stops have occurred at an even higher pace for the first three months of this year.
The city has repeatedly argued that the program helps to keep guns off the street. But the N.Y.C.L.U.’s analysis found that the proportion of gun seizures to stops has fallen sharply — only 780 guns were confiscated last year, not much more than the 604 guns seized in 2003, when officers made 160,851 stops. Young black and Hispanic men continued to be stopped in disproportionate numbers. They are only 4.7 percent of the city’s population, yet these males, between the ages of 14 and 24, accounted for 41.6 percent of stops last year. More than half of all stops were conducted because the individual displayed “furtive movements” — which is so vague as to be meaningless.
The data also show that the police are significantly more likely to use force when they stop blacks and Hispanics than when they stop whites. This means minority targets are more likely to be slammed against walls or spread-eagled while officers go through their belongings. Even when victims are unhurt, they are likely to develop a deep and abiding distrust of law enforcement.
For all this, only about 6 percent of stops lead to arrests. But the stops can also end with officers writing summonses for minor infractions like disorderly conduct. The police issue more than 500,000 summonses a year, most not arising from street stops but as part of the “quality of life” campaign the department embarked on in the 1990s.New York's stop-and-frisk policy is racist and senseless. It assumes that most young black and Latino men are killers and drug dealers. In the eyes of many police officers, black skin is a badge criminality and dishonor. Sadly, that badge has become a warrant for harassment, humiliation, degradation and even brutality.
In addition to being racist, stop-and-frisk is ineffective and a waste of resources. The vast majority (approximately 94%) of those stopped are innocent. They are not carrying firearms or drugs. Instead of collectively punishing and harassing black and Latino people, police departments should narrowly focus on the people who are actually committing crimes.
Not only is stop-and-frisk ineffective, such racial profiling makes communities less safe by unnecessarily diverting manpower and by fermenting distrust. The community will never trust or cooperate with police departments who harass and brutalize. Without such vital cooperation, the actual criminals will remain free to roam the streets.
We must end racial profiling now.
This article is cross-posted on Jack and Jill Politics.