Last year on Father's Day when National Action Network (NAN), the New York Civil Liberties Union, the NAACP and others led 60,000 people in a silent march down Fifth Ave. against the NYPD's discriminatory practice of 'stop and frisk,' some dismissed us. As we peacefully protested from Harlem all the way to the Mayor's house, many castigated and ignored us. Well today, a judge from the Federal District Court in Manhattan has ruled that the abhorrent tactics of 'stop and frisk' violated the constitutional rights of tens of thousands of New Yorkers, and has called for a federal monitor to oversee broad reforms. It's a decision that we applaud and one that many minority residents of this great city have been awaiting for quite some time. Now it is incumbent upon the Mayor to cease and desist this racially charged policy immediately. As Bloomberg nears the end of his term, now would be a great time for him to align himself on the right side of history.
"The NYPD's practice of making stops that lack individualized reasonable suspicion has been so pervasive and persistent as to become not only a part of the NYPD's standard operating procedure, but a fact of daily life in some New York City neighborhoods," said Judge Scheindlin. And the data clearly supports her ruling. Some 4.43 million stops were conducted between 2004 and mid-2012, and about 88 percent of stops resulted in the police letting the person go without an arrest or ticket. That outrageous percentage clearly shows that the majority of stops were done unjustifiably. In other words, young men (and women) of color in this city were routinely profiled, stopped and searched in far greater numbers than their white counterparts leading to the criminalization of an entire segment of the population. Following Judge Scheindlin's findings that I and others have highlighted for some time, it is incumbent upon Mayor Bloomberg to end 'stop and frisk.'
In less than two weeks, NAN, Martin Luther King III and others will conduct the 'National Action to Realize the Dream' rally and march in Washington, D.C. to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s historic 'March on Washington.' Today's ruling against 'stop and frisk' is a victory for us and all those on the side of justice. But it can only be a victory if the policy is stopped without delay. We hope to go to Washington on August 24th and celebrate this momentous development, but we need NYC's Mayor to take action in order for that to happen. Many often accuse us of race-baiting or exacerbating tensions; well the data and the court's decision clearly prove the opposite. Facts just don't lie. We need Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Kelly to eliminate policies that further divide our city. And because NYC sets the standard for so many other cities and localities to emulate, we need to make sure that we are providing the right example.
At our march in Washington, we will be protesting against recent attempts at voter suppression and troubling 'stand your ground' laws. While we emphasize challenges that remain on the road to progress, we will praise all that we have achieved since the days when Dr. King delivered his impassioned 'I Have a Dream Speech.' It is our strong hope that we can add the elimination of 'stop and frisk' to that list. Now that a judge has validated the fact that the NYPD's practice demonstrates a widespread disregard for the Fourth Amendment, which protects against unreasonable searches and seizures by the government, as well as violations with the 14th Amendment, we need leadership to accordingly.
The residents of NYC will soon be electing a new Mayor. While we push Bloomberg and Kelly to do the right thing, we will also hold the next Mayor accountable. If this ruling is out on appeal, will the future candidates vow to stop the program? This could very well be a clear deciding factor in the election. Parents and grandparents in this city are tired of having to warn their children about both criminals and the police. Do we want to see crime reduced? Absolutely, because they are doing it to us. But don't criminalize us at the same time.
When an environment of distrust is created between the police and the community, nobody benefits. We need real cooperation in order to combat violence and wrongdoing. Stopping, harassing and searching people of color is not the answer. Today, a federal judge has agreed with us. Now if only this city's leadership can do the same.